Holy Tradition's Importance to Canon Formation

 

Holy Tradition’s Importance to Canon Formation: A Response to Prof. Daniel Wallace

Daniel B. Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (perhaps the leading dispensational seminary in the world), wrote a thoughtful blog posting: “The Problem with Protestant Ecclesiology.”

He starts off by unabashedly proclaiming his Protestant convictions. Then, amazingly, he points out what he sees as Protestantism’s weakness, its ecclesiology.

Prof. Wallace notes that: (1) there is a lack of consistency in Protestant worship services,(2) many Protestant congregations are ill prepared to deal with a pastor who forsakes the historic Christian faith, and (3) recent scholarship is drawing attention to the fact that canonicity – which books belong to the Bible – cannot be understood apart from the authority of the church.  Orthodox Christians have made similar criticisms, but these are stunning admissions and observations coming from within the Protestant camp.  Protestants, whether of dispensationalist, fundamentalist, or more mainstream persuasion, should give attention to what Prof. Wallace has to say.

He closes with the suggestion that Protestants be open to learning from the more ancient branches of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  He also recommends that Protestants listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the early church fathers and embrace the ancient historic forms of worship.

This blog posting has three parts: (1) my personal reactions to Prof. Wallace’s posting, (2) a discussion of the evidence that point to the role of the traditioning process in canon formation, and (3) a discussion of an Orthodox approach to canon formation.

 

1. My Reactions

As I read through Prof. Wallace’s blog posting I had a sense of déjà vu.  It reminded me of the time I had graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with an M.A. in Church History and was committed to helping to bring the United Church of Christ back to its biblical roots.  Yet unbeknownst to me at the time were the tiny cracks in my Protestant theology that would in time become major fissures that would result in a theological crisis.  The concerns voiced by Prof. Wallace are quite similar that I and others were asking when we embarked on our journey to Orthodoxy.  I was just a seminary graduate then, here we have similar critical questions being voiced by a seminary professor at a major Protestant seminary!

My studies in church history made me keenly aware of Protestantism’s theological anarchy.  My involvement in the evangelical renewal movement put me squarely in the middle of the Cold War hostilities between Evangelicals and Liberals who belonged to the same denomination.  Prof. Wallace recounted the struggle of one Protestant congregation with an apostate pastor; I had to struggle with the question of a denomination that had gone apostate.  Could I as an Evangelical belong to a denomination with historic roots in Puritan New England and yet had many pastors and theologians who had become de facto Arians?

As I wrestled with the doctrinal controversies of modern Protestantism I was at the same time haunted by voices from the early church.  It took the form of quotes from two church fathers.  Irenaeus of Lyons, a second century church father, wrote:

Having received this preaching and this faith, as I have said, the Church, although scattered in the whole world, carefully preserves it, as if living in one house.  She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them, and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth.

This quote by Irenaeus described the organic connection between church unity and doctrinal orthodoxy in the early church.  What I longed for was not an impossible ideal but had existed in fact in the early church.  It caused me wonder: How did Protestant Christianity get into such a mess and how could we recover the church unity and orthodoxy of the early Church?

The other quote came from Augustine of Hippo, the towering giant of Western theology.  He is reputed to have said:

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.

This quote by Augustine shone a spotlight on the egocentric core of the Protestant approach to doing theology.  I realized that my evangelical theology was at its core my personal interpretation of the Bible and my church identity the result of which denomination I chose to affiliate with.

Even the Reformed tradition with confessional statements like the Westminster Confession suffered from this egocentric flaw.  There were not one but a variety of confessions one could choose from.  Moreover, the authority of these confessions was contingent and provisional at best.  These confessions had no authority in themselves but were dependent on their faithfully reflecting Scripture.  Absent from the Reformed creeds were any claim to a universal binding authority on all Christians.  Among Presbyterians the conservatives view the confessions as prescriptive and binding while the liberals understand them to be historic witnesses and no longer binding.  I had no objective guarantee that this was the true Christian faith.  As a Protestant I had no external authority like the Church to fall back on.

As Prof. Wallace suggested, I started listening to what the Holy Spirit had to say through the early church fathers and the ancient liturgies.  This led me to follow in the paths of the Mercersburg theologians, John Nevins and Philip Schaff, who advocated a catholic and Reformed Christianity.  This took me to the Seven Ecumenical Councils that claimed to make decisions binding on all Christians.  But the weakness of Mercersburg theology was that the early church fathers for the most part were books on my bookshelf and most people in my former home church couldn’t care less about patristics and ancient liturgies.  Ultimately I found myself caught between a Protestantism that suffered from extensive historical amnesia and the Orthodox Church which claimed to have unbroken historic continuity going back to the original Apostles.

 

2. The Importance of the Traditioning Process to Canon Formation

Manuscript from St. Katherine at Mt. Sinai

The unexpected surprise in Prof. Wallace’s blog posting was his discussion of what Eusebius of Caesarea, the fourth century church historian, had to say about the formation of the biblical canon.  Unlike today’s bibles that have neatly printed table of contents in the front, the early church had no clear cut listing.  Even by the fourth century there were still some debate as to what books belonged to the canon, that is, were divinely inspired and authoritative Scripture.  So Eusebius needed to distinguish between homolegoumena (that which everyone agreed was Scripture), antilegomena (that which was in question or disputed), apocrypha (that which was rejected by many but accepted by some), and pseudepigrapha (that which was rejected by all) (Church History 3.3.6).  Prof. Wallace paraphrasing David Dungan observes:

What is significant is that for the ancient church, canonicity was intrinsically linked to ecclesiology.  It was the bishops rather than the congregations that gave their opinion of a book’s credentials.  Not just any bishops, but bishops of the major sees of the ancient church.

This observation points to a tension embedded in the Protestant view of Scripture; despite Protestantism’s assigning supreme authority to Scripture, Scripture itself is unavoidably a product of the Church.  It did not come into existence independently of the Church.  Moreover, the early bishops played a key role in determining which books would comprise Scripture.  One cannot understand the formation of the biblical canon without taking into account the early bishops.  To ignore the bishops is to create an artificial mental construct that has no historical basis.

For modern Christians, Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Orthodox, to grasp the nature of canon formation they must beware of inadvertently imposing their modern assumptions on the early church.  They should research the early church and try to imagine themselves in the early church service when there were no electric guitars, PowerPoint overheads, worship bulletins, or leather bound gold leaf Bibles.  Early Christians did not have personal Bibles. Scripture in the early church consisted of a limited number of copied scrolls or codices in the safekeeping of one of the clergy.  This was especially critical in times of persecution.  Back then Christians would painstakingly copy by hand whatever Scripture they could borrow from another church.  There were no denominational publishing houses back then!  Early Christians experienced the Bible in the context of the Sunday worship.  A reader would stand in the front of the assembly and read out loud the Scripture.  The bishop was responsible for deciding what would be read in the Sunday Liturgy.  This meant that he needed to identify spurious books be excluded from the Sunday worship.

What is fascinating about Book 3 of Eusebius’ Church History is his juxtaposing of accounts of canon formation with accounts of apostolic succession.  Church History 3.4 describes the immediate successors to the Apostles: Timothy was bishop of Ephesus and Titus of Crete.  Linus who was mentioned in II Timothy was Peter’s successor to the episcopacy in Rome.  We learn that the third bishop of Rome was Clement.  Church History 3.22 describes Ignatius as the second bishop of Antioch.  Thus, Eusebius provides a valuable external witness to some of the early post-apostolic writings.

In Church History 3.9-10 Eusebius draws on Josephus for a description of the Old Testament canon.  In Church History 3.25 Eusebius describes the undisputed and disputed books of the New Testament writings.

What is striking about Eusebius’ discussion of the biblical canon are his references to the traditioning process.  In Church History 3.26.6 Eusebius wrote:

But we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also, distinguishing those works which according to ecclesiastical tradition are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which, although not canonical but disputed, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical writers…. (Emphasis added)

In Church History 6.12, Eusebius quotes from a letter by Serapion, bishop of Antioch, concerning a question about a so-called Gospel of Peter.  Serapion wrote:

For we, brethren, receive both Peter and the other apostles as Christ; but we reject intelligently the writings falsely ascribed to them, knowing that such were not handed down to us.  (Emphasis added)

Bishop Serapion’s principal criterion for determining canonicity was apostolic tradition.  The way the early Christians approached canonicity is at variance with the more recent discussion about canon formation which asume a tension between the authority of the writings and the authority of the church.  The issue of Scripture versus the Church was not a concern of the early Christians.  Instead they were more concerned about the traditioning process: Could a bishopric, a liturgical practice, or an alleged apostolic writing be shown to have apostolic origins?

Many Protestants and Evangelicals admire Athanasius the Great for his staunch defense of Christ’s divinity.  But many are not aware of his role as a bishop in the early church.  Athanasius’ Letter 39 which provides one of the earliest listing of canonical books also affirmed the traditioning process as critical to canon formation.  He wrote:

Forasmuch as some have taken in hand, to reduce into order for themselves the books termed apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired Scriptures, concerning which we have been fully persuaded, as they who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered to the fathers; it seemed good to me also, having been urged thereto by true brethren, and having learned from the beginning, to set before you the books included in the Canon, and handed down, and accredited as Divine…. (Emphasis added)

Letter 39 was not an ordinary correspondence.  It was the custom for the Patriarch of Alexandria to send a letter to the churches in the diocese every Easter.  In other words this was an authoritative letter by the bishop to all those under his care.  There was a practical aspect to the letter.  Apparently there was some confusion as to which books ought to be read out loud in the Sunday Liturgy.  As bishop Athanasius sought to bring order and regularity to the congregations under his care.  What is striking here is that Athanasius did not invoke the institutional power of the church but rather he referenced the traditioning process that he was part of.  As a bishop of the early church he was obligated to safeguard the sacred deposit of Faith which included the writings of the Apostles.

Eusebius and Athanasius were bishops who lived in the fourth century.  When we look for earlier evidence we find similar evidence in the second century church father, Irenaeus of Lyons. In his defense of the four Gospels, Irenaeus made reference to the traditioning process.  He wrote:

For if what they [the heretics] had published is the Gospel of truth, and yet is totally unlike those which have been handed down to us from the apostles, any who please may learn, as is shown from the Scriptures themselves, that that which has been handed down from the apostles can no longer be reckoned the Gospel of truth.  (Against the Heretics 3.11.9, p. 429; Emphasis added)

Going back even earlier to the New Testament period we find evidence of the traditioning process.  The Apostle Paul exhorted the Christians in Thessalonica to hold fast to both the oral and written traditions (II Thessalonians 2:15).

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (NKJV; emphasis added)

What is striking in this verse is Paul’s use of the word “whether.”  This means that oral tradition is just as authoritative as written tradition.  We also find Paul exhorting Timothy to pass on the deposit of faith to other faithful men when ordaining the future generation of clergy (II Timothy 2:2).

And the things you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (NKJV)

The word “commit” used by Paul is similar to: “delivered,” “pass on,” and “hand down” terms used by the church fathers; they are all refer to the traditioning process.

When we consider that I and II Thessalonians were among Paul’s earliest letters and that the two letters to Timothy were written just before his death we find that the traditioning process was an integral to the Apostle Paul’s ministry. So I was shocked when I read Eusebius’ Church History and discovered that II Timothy 2:2 did not disappear into the foggy mists of church history but continued like a strong iron chain in the form detailed listings of bishops.  Eusebius’ Church History gives us long detailed lists of bishops tracing their lineage back to the Apostles!  Thus, the traditioning of Scripture was a widely known practice endorsed by both Scripture and the early church fathers. (See my article on Sola Scriptura and the Biblical Basis for the Tradition.)  

 

3. An Orthodox Approach to Canon Formation

The significance of the patristic and biblical witness to the importance of traditioning process to canon formation is that they alter the framework of debate.  The tension between an authoritative Scripture and an authoritative Church is no longer an issue.  This is because both have a common source, the Apostles who were commissioned by Christ via the Great Commission.

The dichotomy underlying the canon formation debate – an authoritative listing versus a listing of authoritative books — becomes suspect.  This tension apparently stem from the Protestant versus Catholic controversy of the 1500s.  Defining the canon as an authoritative listing of books supports the Roman Catholic view that Scripture is authoritative because it has the backing of the Church.  Defining the canon as a listing of authoritative books reflects the Protestant view that Scripture’s authority is independent of the church.

The Orthodox approach is to understand the biblical canon as an authoritative listing of authoritative books.  The apostolic writings were authoritative because they were written by the apostles and the bishops were authoritative because they were the apostles’ successors and the guardian of Scripture.  For Orthodoxy, Scripture and Church cannot be separated because they comprise one organic whole.

 

Brinks Guards

This makes for some troubling practical consequences for Protestants. Scripture can no longer be viewed as existing independently of the Church.  The Bible is the property of the Church, much like the bags of money stored in Brinks armored trucks.  The money does not belong to the guards, but are nonetheless the guards’ responsibility.  Similarly, Scripture is the word of God left in the care of the bishops.

 

The significance of the traditioning process is that it assumes that one belongs to a historic chain that goes back to the Apostles.  With the advent of the printing press many Protestants have come to view the Bible as their personal property but such an understanding is a radical departure from historic Christianity which understood Scripture to be the sacred deposit entrusted to the Church.  Where an Orthodox Christian is part of a historic chain of tradition that goes back to the original Apostles a Protestant Christian is not.  They believe in a Bible that stands independently of the church.  Professor Wallace rightly noted that the divorcing of Scripture from church has resulted in Protestantism’s weak ecclesiology.  One can even question whether all the disparities in doctrine, worship, and church governance render “Protestant ecclesiology” an oxymoron – a self-contradictory statement.

 

Thomas Jefferson’s Bible

There are problems with the Protestant approach to the biblical canon as just a list.  How should a Protestant respond to Martin Luther wanting to exclude the book of James from the New Testament or Thomas Jefferson excising passages from the Bible based upon his well informed judgment?  And how should a Protestant respond to a “prophet” like Joseph Smith who wants expand the canonical collection?  Or a university scholar who discovered a “lost gospel”?  Without being able to appeal to an authoritative listing, a Protestant will be forced to fall back on reason, scholarship, or inner conscience.  But would one have confidence in a round table of scholars like the Jesus Seminar voting by means of colored slips?  An Orthodox Christian can simply reply that to tamper with the biblical canon is to break with the historic Christian faith that goes back to the Apostles.  This is because the Church as the recipient and guardian of Scripture has the authority to draw up an authoritative listing of biblical books.

 

The Jurassic Park Experience

Movie: Jurassic Park

Professor Daniel Wallace is perceptive when he recognizes that Protestantism’s ecclesiology is its weakness.  This leaves him yearning for a church unified in worship and doctrine but he dismisses that as just a dream.  My response is that the true church is not wishful thinking but a living reality.  Professor Wallace wrote positively about his visits to the Orthodox Church.  He may not know it but every time he visits an Orthodox Liturgy he is seeing a living walking dinosaur straight from the ancient church.  The Orthodox Church today is the same church as the church described by Irenaeus of Lyons.  This is because it has not suffered a break in the traditioning process like Protestantism.  Orthodoxy’s strong ecclesiology has enabled it to maintain unity in worship and doctrinal orthodoxy for the past two millennia.

 Robert Arakaki

51 comments:

  1. Robert,

    Thanks for this. And bless you!

    And for your critique of the weak ecclesiology of the Protestants. And of your observation re Arians.

    Of the two options you present for Canon, can I suggest the proverbial “Talmudic third alternative” (so to speak). And it arises out of an accurate understanding of NT genealogy.

    When one unscrambles the genealogical and relationship jumble tradition deliberately created by the Pauline Church for its own ends (and inherited by and further jumbled by the Constantinian / Theodosian Greek and Latin Churches); and inter alia understands the proper position and role of the Luke genealogy in Biblical history, an “Authority-chain” emerges anterior to the death of the Apostle John (101CE) and superior to any bishop. . . .

    Luke’s genealogy presents the “president” of the “Men of the Great Assembly” which continues unbroken to St Joseph of Arimathea (jnr). As an aside, Luke’s genealogy provides the human blood-descent to Jesus (via Mary).

    Three things arise out of this rectified genealogy:

    1. More than half the books of the Hebrew Tanak were either written by or “authorised by” these “Men of the Great Assembly” or persons very close to them. [Talmud – Tractate : Baba Bathra 14b (order) & 15a (authorship)].

    2. These “Men of the Great Assembly” in the wake of the Maccabean victory, and at the same time as the birth of Hanukkah, charged Judas Maccabeus to close the Canon of the Tanak so as to exclude anything either originally written in or translated into Greek – so as in turn, to forever exclude the cultural and spiritual poison of Hellenism and all things Greek from Canonical Literature.

    In doing so, Judas defined for all time, the maximum extent of the Canon of the Tanak. This meant a de facto terminus ad quem for the writings of the Tanak as being 331BCE – the rise of Alexander the Great. This maximum extent of the Tanak was accepted by Jesus (Yeshua) and His Apostles.

    After much debate, this collection by Judas Maccabaeus was never changed, added-to, or diminished, but was accepted as fact at Jamnia. The Jewish community (both Messianic and Talmudic) has never seen fit to revisit Jamnia since.

    3. All the non-Pauline NT arose within this Lucan Arimathean “Orbit” and close to Yeshua:

    (A) Written by a member of Yeshua’s close blood family,
    * Gospel of John, Apocalypse (Revelation), Epistles of John, Hebrews (most likely John)
    The Apocalypse was written by the Deacon Prochorus, John’s disciple and amanuensis.
    [Yochanan (John) – first cousin to Yeshua – his mother Zelomi was full sister to Miriam, Yeshua’s mother ]

    (B) Written by one of Yeshua’s extended blood family,
    * Gospels of Matthew, and Mark,
    [Levi Matthew & John Mark – sons of Cleopas & Miriam of Emmaus
    – blood nephews of Joseph of Arimathea through their mother Miriam (Miriam 3rd daughter of Joachim & Anna)
    – blood nephews of Joseph of Nazareth through their Father Cleopas (Joseph & Cleopas – brothers)
    – brothers of James (the “lesser”,
    Mark – the “supervisor” of Shimon.

    (C) Written by an intimate associate of Yeshua’s close extended blood family,
    * Gospel of Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles.
    (Luke was attached to the household of Joseph of Arimathea)

    (D) Written by a Member of Yeshua’s distant extended blood family by marriage,
    * Epistles of Peter.
    [Shimon (Peter). His wife, Perpetua, was daughter of Aristobulus who in turn was the younger brother of Joseph of Arimathea.]

    (E) Written by a member of Yeshua’s foster-family,
    * The Epistles of James and Jude
    [Ya’akov & Yehuda – “brothers” – children of Joseph of Nazareth to his previous marriage to Salome.

    Joseph of Nazareth’s father, Jacob was:
    (a) the blood-son of the Mattathan (Matt. 1:15) and
    (b) the adopted son of the Matthat (Luke 3:24) who named him “Heli” upon his adoption.
    [This was to provide the legal, male-only “authority” for Yeshua with an unbroken lineage back to David via Luke. Matthew’s genealogy has gaps.]

    Thus the non-Pauline NT in a very real sense, emerged from the quills of its writers as being already de-facto “canonical” – having come from the same family – in a close and direct relationship, that delimited, defined and authorized the extent of the Canon of the Tanak. In addition, combined with their direct relationship to Yeshua, this gave them an authority superior to any bishop.

    And thus, whilst this literature was most certainly born ‘within’ the Church, it was never “of” (ie a product of) the Church (in any episcopal “authorization” sense), but was merely an organic part of the unbroken Canonical (and thus canonization) continuum that already existed prior to the birth of the Church.

    Paul, in repudiating both Torah, and this genealogical Canonical continuum (Titus 1:10,11, 3:9-11) created his own, separate and personal “succession” and “traditioning” process, as found, inter alia, in II Thessalonians 2:15 and II Timothy 2:2. Thus, the Constantinian / Theodosian Church – the direct successors to the Pauline “Tradition” (at the very least in terms of Canonical Literature) only have authority ‘over’ Pauline literature plus the non-Tanak LXX alone; and not over the balance of the Bible.

    Thus, Eusebius of Caesarea (an Arian) and later Athanasius (both within the Pauline Tradition) in his “Canon” attempt (Letter 39) to claim an “authority” over both the Tanak and the non-Pauline NT was illegitimate, and possibly illegal – neither had any right to exercise their initiative to “authorize” as “canon”, (and hence claim an ‘authority’ “over”) that which was already “canonical” in authority by 100CE! And which was already and inherently anterior and superior to their own authority!

    They thus had no option but to “hand-down” this Tanak and the non-Pauline NT literature. Had they NOT “handed down” this literature – in toto and intact and unchanged, they would have forfeited their right to claim any form of “apostolic succession”. His (Athanasius’) “authority” to “authorize” ‘canonical’ literature only extended to Pauline Literature plus non-Tanak LXX alone, and to none other.

    Thus, the bishops only have an “authority” ‘over’ this Pauline Literature plus non-Tanak LXX alone. Thus, this literature alone “is the property of the Church” in a possessive sense.

    As you are aware, I could go on (see my earlier blog on Simeon), but this will do for now.

    Pax et benedictus in Christi,
    John.

    1. “In addition, combined with their direct relationship to Yeshua, this gave them an authority superior to any bishop.”

      Remember what Yeshua told the Jews about reliance on those direct relationships? Geneology contains no authority.
      And why would Jamnia have any authority for Christians?

      Do you hold to a non-Pauline canon? Are you a member of an assembly that is “an organic part of the unbroken Canonical…..continuum that already existed prior to the birth of the Church.”
      Paul went out from the Acts 15 council in communion with the authority of the Jerusalem church and it was not revoked, was it?

      1. Canadian,

        Can I break this to you gently . . .

        # You: “Remember what Yeshua told the Jews about reliance on those direct relationships? Geneology contains no authority.”

        1) Then why in the name of goodness did BOTH Matthew and Luke have genealogies in their Gospels in the first place? – if they contained no authority!??

        Your rejection of Jewish genealogies is pure Marcionism. Remember, Marcion excised Luke’s genealogy because it was too “Jewish”.

        2) Genealogies were included in both Matthew and Luke (Luke especially) to ram home the fact that Yeshua was a legal “King of the Jews” via Joseph of Nazareth – especially for a Jewish audience.

        3) Yeshua intended that after His Ascension, that for the Jews, His foster-brother Jacob (James) was to head the legitimate and non-Hellenised Jerusalem Bet Din (later anachronistically called the “Jerusalem Council”) and Jacob needed genealogical proof for the validity of his leadership-role in this capacity. And to demonstrate that Joseph of Arimathea (the direct legal “King of the Jews” after the flesh) had the legal, earthly genealogical authority to set this Bet Din up in the first place. This proof was supplied by both Matthew and Luke.

        # You: “And why would Jamnia have any authority for Christians?”

        Jamnia has significance for the Church in that it proved for all time that the “scripture” repeatedly referred-to by both Yeshua and His Disciples/Apostles – and accepted by the entire Jewish community amongst whom He was ministering – including Himself, was the Hebrew/Aramaic Tanak Original, and NOT the Hellenized LXX from Alexandria.

        Remember, Yeshua in His pre-Incarnate being had, through the Prophet Daniel, instructed all true followers of Yahweh to have a passionate hatred of all forms of Hellenism. Inter alia, this gave birth to the saying in Yeshua’s ministry-time that a true Jew ‘would rather feed pork to his son than to teach him Greek’!

        Pork (bad as it was and remains) would merely foul the stomach and be eliminated from the bowel within the week (generally within 3 days), Hellenism, on the other hand, would foul one’s mind and one’s spirit so badly and for so long that one could NOT study the Bible as it was meant to be studied and understood (the mind), and one could NOT worship Yahweh (in 3 persons) as Yahweh was wont to be worshiped (the spirit).

        One’s mind would be fouled with both a Greek phromena, and the Greek hermeneutical tools of Allegory and Symbolism, abandoning the Hebrew PaRDeS schema. The only legitimate hermeneutical tool to interpret Hebrew Literature (the Bible) is PaRDeS.

        A Greek phronema – polluted as it was from the likes of Mt Olympus, Mt Parnassus and the Delphic Oracle was in no fit state to facilitate worship of and to the Yahweh of the Hebrew/Aramaic Tanak.

        # You, (quoting me): “an organic part of the unbroken Canonical…..continuum that already existed prior to the birth of the Church.”

        This ‘continuum’ is only legitimate in an “Apostolic-Succession” sense if it is free of ALL traces of both Hellenism and Romanism (pace the Prophet Daniel), and retains its Jewish-Roots to and in the Church of St James the Just in Jerusalem.

        If your ‘continuum’ has ANY traces of Hellenism or Romanism or both in it, and/or rejects the “Jerusalem-Central” Tradition as ‘heretical’, it is not legitimate, and cannot legitimately claim “Apostolic Succession” to the extent that it is Hellenised and Romanised, and declares the “Jerusalem-Central Tradition to be a (“Judaising”) heresy.

        I draw your attention to the pericope in Matt 3:7-10 and Luke 3:7-9.

        Here the Hellenised and Romanised “official” Jewish establishment were claiming Abraham as their father.

        Yeshua effectively said “So what!”

        Pointing to the stones on the ground, He went on to say that “out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham”. (Matt 3:9, Luke 3:8)

        Here Yeshua is rejecting claims to an “Abrahamic Succession” via circumcision (no matter how much attention they drew to their male member) if it is compromised and contaminated by Hellenism and Romanism. And He pointed to the fact that He could quite validly start again ex nihilo! The parallel for the Church could not be clearer!

        If your “Apostolic Succession” claims via baptism and chrismation is compromised and contaminated by Hellenism and Romanism, and declares the Jerusalem-Central Tradition led by St James the Just a “Judaising heresy” it is not legitimate in Yeshua’s eyes. And He could start again with perfect validity with another “Apostolic-Succession” without reference to your form of “Apostolic-Succession”! No matter how valid and accurate your “unbroken list” of “Canonical bishops” is!

        #You: “Paul went out from the Acts 15 council in communion with the authority of the Jerusalem church and it was not revoked, was it?”

        You need to read more than merely this passage to make “in communion” conclusions from it into the future. This merely expresses the status-quo in 49CE, not for ever more thereafter.

        If you read the records of this trial Jewishly and from a Jewish perspective – as we are required to do, Paul went out from the Acts 15 Council chastened, rebuked, refuted and put on a very short leash. Galatians contains his deliberate misrepresentation of the outcome of this trial.

        By the time of his return to Jerusalem in 57CE, and contrary to the intent of Acts 15, and the measures he was required to submit to, he was already schismatic with Jerusalem and was on the verge of excommunication – James’ failure to come to his rescue over the Trophimus incident proves that. To abort this fresh heresy trial, he had to seek Roman protection.

        In 62CE, just after his release from Roman “house-arrest” (more correctly “protective custody”), he returned to Jerusalem incognito to finish the “unfinished business” with James over this Trophimus incident. His aborted trial of 58CE was resumed but again was never finished (again aborted) due to the death of James. This was his “first defence” (2Tim4:16). With the murder of James in 62CE, he again had to seek Roman protection (Jerusalem at the time had a strong majority of its population supporting James) to escape the fury of almost all Jerusalem.

        He was the prime suspect in this murder. He had already tried to murder James prior to his Damascus Road experience (see the Clementine Homilies), and given the heresy-trial atmospherics at this time with him, there was and remains no reason to dismiss this “suspect” claim out of hand.

        In 64CE he arrived in Ephesus, then under the Apostle John, after lobbying Rome for the Herodians in Macedonia (see Josephus). In Ephesus he found a full-blown Heresy Trial waiting to go – resumed from 62CE and upgraded to Excommunication level, and this time he could not escape. This is his “second defence” (implicit in 2Tim4:16).

        He left this trial cut loose from the Church – “all Asia have turned away from me” (2Tim1:15). This is also why his “death” is often given as being in this year.

        The Ascended Yeshua via John explicitly refers to this trial in 64CE in Revelation 2:2 and again in Rev 2:14 with reference to Baalam. (This part of Revelation was written and released in the following year as a matter of urgency to counter Pauline propaganda on this trial as he had already done with Galatians). This has implications for the Canonical Status of all Pauline Literature.

        # You “Do you hold to a non-Pauline canon?”

        Can I hold this one over until another time. It requires far more space to deal with in a credible way than Robert would like to see occupied in a single response.

        Canadian: I hold nothing against you, I wish you all the very best, and may ALL of God’s richest blessings be upon you, but please, be a little more circumspect and informed in what you say.

        Robert; Mea culpa for the length of this response.

        Pax Vobiscum,
        John

        1. John,

          My biggest difficulty with your comments is your language. Our language reflects our culture, our tribe, our citizenship. Evangelicals and Calvinists use a particular theological language to express their understanding of God. Same thing applies to Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. When I read your comments I am often scratching my head in confusion as to your religious affiliation. Are you perhaps a Messianic Jew? Or more to the point to whom are you accountable to spiritually? See Hebrews 13:17.

          I can see that you have a lot to say. Perhaps you should start your own blog site. This is not to say that I wish to curtail your commenting but in this recent blog posting about Prof. Daniel Wallace I’m hoping to engage the Evangelical dispensationalists and I’m afraid that your long elaborate exchanges with Canadian will prove to be a distraction to new visitors. Hope you understand.

          To all you dispensationalists out there. Please don’t be shy. Come out and voice your views! DTS grads are especially invited to comment.

          Robert

          1. Robert,

            Thanks for this information.

            Now that I know where your “target-audience” is, on this thread, I will confine my exchanges (if any) to this area.

            Pax Vobiscum,
            John

        2. The above anti-Hellenism is disgusting to say the least, and the anti-Pauline sentiment is no better. I’m sorry the poster, John, feels this way.

          What of Rabbi Gamaliel’s assertion in Megillah 1.8 in which he states that the Books (Scripture) “have only permitted to be written in Greek.” ? Why the reliance on Jamnia when this event is no longer accepted for finalizing the Hebrew Canon?

          Heralding PaRDeS as the preeminent means of interpretation is a serious error. To quote Rabbi Joshua Grater, it is a “rabbinic literary invention” that gives each word of Scripture 4 different meanings which “completely change the text from what it literally says.” In other words, rabbinic interpretation is imaginary – it’s made up per the whim of the Rabbi!

          1. Robert,

            Thank you for your earlier reply.

            Do you want me to reply to this one, or can I just let it go? Would this reply distract from the principal purpose of your lead article?

            It has two major and damaging (to Jason’s position) ellipses.

            1) for R. Gamaliel in Megillah 1.8, and
            2) for R. Joshua Grater.

            Blessings,
            John

          2. John,

            Just let it go. The main issue here is how did the Christian Church formulate the biblical canon? And how much of a role did the traditioning process play in the formation of the canon?

            Protestants assert that Scripture is independent of tradition, but Orthodoxy insists that the two are intertwined with the other and therefore cannot be divorced from the other. This is what I’m hoping Protestants and Orthodox can dialogue in this particular thread. Others can also contribute to the thread but it would be helpful if they could identify their particular tradition in order to avoid confusion.

            Robert

        3. Jesus read the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Greek. From the Septuagint. 98.57% of the quotations from the OT in the NT are from the LXX.

          You are rejecting the authority and inspiration of the apostolic community by your insinuations, not to mention Christ Himself, who quoted exclusively from the LXX in his public ministry.

          If it wasn’t for the predominance of the Greek language among the Judean diaspora, Christianity would’ve been dead on arrival. There is nothing “wrong” with the Greek language, and our Lord made a great use out of it in the spreading of the Gospel through His apostles to the nations.

    2. John,

      You never told us what group you’re from. Also, in regards to the deuterocanon and Jamnia of either 70A.D. – 100A.D.

      Well, I read that the primary evidence for that theory is lacking. I still see this claim from older scholarship, but I thought Sanders and company put this theory to rest some time ago.

      There is evidence that the Bar kochba second Jewish rebellion along with Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph around 135 A.D. to 150 A.D. officially rejected books that Christians embraced. When looking at the details one will see that the Jewish rejection of these books in the first and second centuries wasn’t as clear cut as you would like to declare.

      So what group do you belong to? We are Christians and so rejecting Saint Paul and his writings isn’t going to get you anywhere with us. So what are you? What is your affiliation?

      1. Robert,

        Do your comments on December 4, 2012 at 8:48 am. to my note on December 4, 2012 at 8:25 am. also apply to this one?

        It appears that I have touched some very raw nerves here.

        I would like to keep this thread focused on:

        “The main issue here is how did the Christian Church formulate the biblical canon? And how much of a role did the traditioning process play in the formation of the canon?”

        Regards,
        John.

        1. John,

          Yes, it applies. I think you can say that while you could say more in response to JNorm’s criticism, you will in deference to my wishes refrain from doing so.

          I think JNorm’s question about your religious affiliation merits a response. Silence on your part could make future comments by you suspect.

          Folks, let’s get the discussion back to the formation of the New Testament canon.

          Robert

          1. # Robert,

            Thanks for this.

            Regarding religious affiliation, it is somewhat loose and mixed. It is comprised of a number of parts – in descending order of significance :

            a) anchored in the High Church Anglican Tradition – in respect to Liturgy, the generality of Sacraments, love of history, and interest in Tradition. And in the pre-Henrician Church in England.

            [But not in the ultra-liberal strand in the US Episcopal tradition.]

            b) profoundly supportive of the Jews and Jewish issues – particularly in the wake of the Shoah (the Nazi Holocaust).

            [This has given me my Jewish knowledge, and has driven my ad fontes quest back to the 30CE Resurrection of Yeshua and the formation of the Church & its Canon.]

            c) deeply rooted in the Celtic Christian tradition – especially before 597CE and Augustine’s invasion to commandeer the British Church for Rome (& hence for the Imperial Roman Tradition.)

            [This has driven my suspicion of the Imperial Roman Tradition from Constantine down.]

            d) supportive of the “ordinary Roman Catholic” in their opposition to Roman episcopacy, and thus the failed Constantinian model of bishop, and of their questioning of its legitimacy.

            See the mixed reaction to the Roy Bourgeois issue (especially those of Joseph Jaglowicz) at: http://ncronline.org/news/people/editorial-ordination-women-would-correct-injustice

            [This ecclesial model is more or less also shared with Eastern Orthodoxy.]

            + I trust this thumbnail sketch assists.

            # JNorm,

            I thank you for your interest in my comments. However I refer you to Robert’s comments above (December 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm).

            While I appreciate and respect your concerns (and potentially those of others), I often weary at seeing profound ellipses in history knowledge – especially those which lead to false conclusions.

            While I would dearly like to assist you to fill in these “gaps” (as you have already seen with Canadian), as Robert has indicated above (December 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm), this thread is not the place to do so. And so, in deference to his wishes, I will not do so here.

            While I have my own views on the Canon, I endorse his closing sentence above: “Folks, let’s get the discussion back to the formation of the New Testament canon. ”

            I trust this assists.
            John.

          2. John,

            Thank you for your reply regarding your ecclesial affinities. You might be interested to learn that the Divine Liturgy is celebrated in Hebrew in Jerusalem.

            Please remember to keep your comments in the future brief and on point. I’m trying to set the agenda for discussion on this site and it gets annoying when someone diverts the conversation attention elsewhere.

            Robert

    3. You are clearly an Ebionite/Judaizer. Robert is showing a tremendous amount of grace by allowing your blasphemies to be published on his website.

      The Talmud is a medieval, fictional work of historical revisionism that contains numerable blasphemies against the Prophets and against both Christ and the Theotokos. Why anyone would give credence to such a *late*, a-historical work is beyond me — especially a Christian.

      1. Robert,

        Are you going to let these (December 18, 2012 at 9:08 pm) and (December 18, 2012 at 9:03 pm) by Vincent Martini go without comment?

        The intemperance of his language is surpassed by the absence of facts regarding his assertions. Both deeply disturb and offend me.

        Do I simply disappear from commenting on your website and let this sort of misleading stuff, and now intemperate ad-hominem attacks on me to continue to afflict your site?

        Is this what Vincent wants, so that his perspective alone is heard on your site? If so, his strategy is totally in line with that of the Byzantine State from Constantine down.

        I will confine my posting to this in line with your advice of (December 6, 2012 at 8:03 pm).

        Regards,
        John

        1. John,

          I agree with you that Vincent Martini used strong language in criticizing your views. I believe that he has a good understanding of the Eastern Orthodox tradition and for that reason I respect what he has to say. With respect to your views and your recent characterization of your ecclesial identity I’m at a loss as to whether your views represent the Christian mainstream. It seems to me your views are quite unique and not part of any recognized church group.

          As to your question whether Vincent’s perspective is to be the only one on the OrthodoxBridge, I would reiterate that the site was intended to be a place of dialogue between Eastern Orthodox, Reformed, and Evangelicals. If you do not hold membership in a church in either one of these traditions, it may be better for you to be a lurker. Again, please consider my suggestion that you set up your own blog as a venue for expressing your viewpoints.

          Robert

  2. It’s interesting that you mention Jurassic Park, because Frank Schaeffer used exactly the same analogy to describe his first visit to an Orthodox service.

    1. Greg,

      Theology cannot be separated from ecclesiology. One informs the other. Do you think they can be separate from each other?

      Robert

      1. No: I think you misnamed the blog post to which you referred. Click your link and you will see. Just suggesting a minor edit – otherwise I agree with you.

  3. Robert,

    Might you comment on the similarity/difference between Athanasius’ approach to what us Prots call the “Apocrypha” and the Orthodox position? It seems that he uses them for catechetical instruction, but not as Scripture to be read in the liturgy: do the Orthodox differ from that? If so, why?

    Thanks!

    Russ

    1. Russ,

      Here’s what Bishop Kallistos Ware wrote in “The Orthodox Church” p. 200.

      The Hebrew version of the Old Testament contains thirty-nine books. The Septuagint contains in addition ten further books, not present in the Hebrew, which are known in the Orthodox Church as the ‘Deutero-Canonical Books’. These were declared by the Councils of Jassy (1642) and Jerusalem (1672) to be ‘genuine parts of Scripture’; most Orthodox scholars at the present day, however, following the opinion of Athanasius and Jerome, consider that the Deutero-Canonical Books, although part of the Bible, stand on a lower footing than the rest of the Old Testament.

      My understanding is that: (1) the proper title or category for these books is “deutero-canonical,” not “aprocryphal,” and (2) while these books are indeed part of the biblical canon, they occupy a lesser authoritative standing. So it would seem that the Orthodox Church shares the same understanding as St. Athanasius.

      Robert

    2. The Orthodox Church reads from several of the “broader canon” books in the Liturgical context throughout the year, depending on how many services one is able to attend (or how many are held at a particular parish). In a monastic community, with the full gamut of services, this becomes more pronounced.

      For example, the Wisdom of Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon are both read liturgically for various feasts, the Prayer of Manasseh is part of regular Orthodox liturgical usage and serves as a primer for Orthodox prayer in general, the book of Tobit is referenced in a priestly prayer/blessing for travelers, etc.

      If we look at the purpose of the “Canon” historically speaking, it was always concerned with the liturgical usage of writings (not binding them together in a single volume called the “Bible,” which would be our only rule of faith — that concept is wholly innovative and Protestant, not to mention a-historical). As such, there are many books in modern “Bibles” today that are NOT read during a Sunday liturgy, just as there are many that ARE read which are NOT found in the modern “Bible” of Protestants.

      Revelation is NEVER read in the Orthodox Church, despite the fact that we consider it “inspired by the Holy Spirit” and authoritative to some extent. On the other hand, Jude quotes 1 Enoch as prophecy (inspired by the Holy Spirit) in his epistle. There’s a far more complex and intricate picture of “Canon” when we consider these variety of issues.

      All that being said, there is certainly within the Orthodox Church a “tiered” approach to the Scriptures. We are far more open and broad when it comes to what we’d identify as “inspired” or “Scripture” than Protestants, but that does not mean they all enjoy the same level of importance or even authority. The Gospels are #1, and they alone have a place on the Altar of our Church. Generally speaking, the Psalms, NT Epistles and OT Prophets are of secondary importance, with the historical books of the OT and the so-called Deutero-canonical books being at the bottom of this hypothetical “tiered” approach to Scripture.

      All are Scripture, but not all are of the same “importance” to the faith.

      1. Vincent,

        Thank you! I appreciate your balanced and well informed presentation of the Orthodox understanding of the canon.

        Robert

        1. Russ,

          Good question! I checked the Orthodox Study Bible and this is what the introductory notes had to say:

          While seen as canonical and inspired by God, the Revelation is the only New Testament book not publicly read in the services of the Orthodox Church. This is partly because the book was only gradually accepted as canonical in many parts of Christendom. In addition, in the second and third centuries Revelation was widely twisted and sensationally misinterpreted, and the erroneous teachings brought troublesome confusion to Christians–a trend that continues to this day.

          I personally enjoy reading the book of Revelation. For me where the Gospels are like paintings by Rembrandt, Revelation is like a painting by Picasso. I think there is a lot of pastoral wisdom in the way the Orthodox Church handles the book of Revelation. The circumspect attitude is much healthier than what I’ve seen in certain Evangelical circles. But that doesn’t mean that we should avoid reading the book or making references to it. I’ve cited Revelations a few time in this blog. For example, my article “Orthodox Worship Versus Contemporary Worship” cites Revelation several times. The main thing is to recognize that it is a difficult book to interpret and that it is best to understand Revelation within the framework of Holy Tradition.

          Robert

        2. Russ,

          Long story short, the Apocalypse had a history of being abused in the Christian East; first and most significantly by Montanus and other self-proclaimed “prophets” of the time. Montanism and other apocalyptic movements caused so much trouble in the East that the book came to be associated closely with troublemakers of this sort.

          As a result, it fell out of prominence early in the East, and was not ecumenically received as Scripture until the 7th century by the majority of eastern Christians. The West led the way with canonizing Revelation a little earlier, as they did not have the same “trouble” with it (but they admittedly didn’t have it in their “circulation” as early as in the East).

          Hope this helps!

          Vincent

      2. I strongly dispute the notion that the Psalms are of secondary importance in Orthodox understand and practice. Strongly – in fact I not only believe this is wrong, but it is a shocking statement that is completely unsupportable by reference to the liturgical tradition or either monastic or lay practice. One could make a similar case for most of the law and prophets – all of which are a pedagogy to Christ.

        It is also not true that Revelation is not read in church.

        May I ask whether you have any seminary experience in an Orthodox setting?

        1. Greg,

          Vincent’s point was that the Gospels are given priority in the Church. In the local Greek Orthodox parish I attend we sit for the reading of the Epistles but stand for the Gospels. But I’ll let Vincent speak for himself.

          Re. Revelation not being read in church can you name a public service where it is read?

          I think seminary education is very valuable but I do not think seminary experience gives one an edge over those who have not gone to seminary. In this blog site I want people to present the facts and their understanding of the facts. This puts us all on the same playing field and does not privilege one background over another. Otherwise, lay people visiting this site will feel like they have nothing worthwhile to say. Folks, whether you are lay or clergy; Protestant or Orthodox; longtime Christian or recent convert please feel free to comment. All I ask is that you be charitable and stick to the point. We are here to help each other grow in our faith in Christ.

          Robert

        2. You can dispute anything you like, but as Robert has indicated, my only point was that the Holy Gospels are held in highest regard by our Church, which is obvious by their place on the Altar and the reverence shown to them.

          This does not denigrate or downplay the importance of the Psalter as the Church’s prayer and song book, and our greatest asset in both prayer and personal devotion. Don’t put false dichotomies into my mouth, please.

          In peace,
          Vincent

      3. Greetings to all!

        Interesting blog.

        Quick question- out of curiosity- Vincent, could you please specify in exactly which feasts, or Liturgical Services the Eastern Orthodox Church reads from Ben Sira?

        I was very much under the impression that this was one of the books that was NOT read from in any of the Liturgies of the Church. I know that the Church reads from Wisdom of Solomon, but if you could inform me of this I would be quite interested in looking into this- as I am quite fond of this great Wisdom book.

        Look forward to a response.

        – Jason
        (anaxios)

  4. I clicked through to Dr. Wallace’s article, and read a number of the comments, and I am pleased to hear so many Protestants have been thinking the same way. Perhaps there will eventually be a large group finding its way home?
    I don’t engage my Protestant friends in the constant argumentation that they so seem to love, but I wonder if there is a glossary somewhere that I could reference to understand what they are talking about? I have an Orthodox understanding of the Bible and the Church, which leaves me at a disadvantage because I apply the Orthodox understanding of the terminology that is employed.

    1. Paula,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! An Orthodox-Protestant glossary sounds like a great idea.

      I think it’s a good idea to refrain from argumentation just for the fun of it. Rather than try to push Orthodoxy on anyone and everyone, I try to determine if the person is hungry for what Orthodoxy has to offer. You could recommend that your friends visit this blog site. I try to present Orthodoxy with an Evangelical accent.

      Will there be a movement towards Orthodoxy? God alone knows. I’m sure that there are many hungry Protestants out there who don’t know much about Orthodoxy. Let’s do our best to help them discover the rich treasures of Orthodox Christianity.

      Robert

  5. A brief comment after reading the linked blog from Dr. Wallace:

    Pelikan’s work certainly has become a rather effective witness for Orthodoxy, has it not?

  6. Dan Wallace is a very brave man. His words could get him fired st Dallas Seminary. I had him as a Greek prof . He has amazing insights into the grammer of the Greek text. Unlike many Protestants, Prof Wallace has a great respect for Orthodoxy even though he can’t embrace it. At least no yet:)

  7. Robert, Vincent and others

    In what may well be my last post on this site (see Robert December 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm) and I apologize in advance for its length, I wish to make two simple observations:

    # No one must allow history to become a subset of theology, and hence be endowed with an infinitely malleable wax nose, to be shaped in whatsoever direction the ruling elite of the day (always a “magesterium” – usually of higher clergy and/or “church-fathers” pushing their favorite nostrums) wish. This always causes a re-writing of history to conform to their wishes, no matter how false and/or misleading that history (tradition) is.

    Further, when these elites and consequent re-writers are successfully challenged over their “politically-correct” narrative when a “small boy” points out that “the king” (in this case their narrative) has no clothes, they normatively, shriek in pained, irrational hatred and anger at that small boy, preferring to live with their manufactured illusion, rather than with the bubble-pierced truth.

    Given the evidence now available, NO sound, non-Orthodox scholar in 2012 (almost 2013) believes Vincent’s false “Greek narrative” in:
    (a) “Jesus read the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Greek. From the Septuagint.”
    And
    (b) “Christ Himself, who quoted exclusively from the LXX in his public ministry.”
    And this with respect to the Talmud:
    (c) “The Talmud is a medieval, fictional work of historical revisionism . . .”

    And when an increasing number of scholars now believe that the non-Pauline NT was more likely to have been written in Aramaic, rather than Greek, his statement:
    (d) “98.57% of the quotations from the OT in the NT are from the LXX.”
    has to be far more nuanced.
    (As it is, it is dangerously misleading and highly elliptical, where what is deliberately omitted would damage the intent of the assertion.) And it has to be re-written as below to be more truthful:
    ““98.57% of the quotations from the OT in the Greek Translations of the non-Pauline NT plus the Pauline NT are from the LXX.”
    Thus placing the LXX% in the original, non-Pauline Aramaic text as zero. And resting the responsibility for a high %LXX (never as high as 98.57%) in the non-Pauline NT on the translator and not the original author.

    And when the “small boy” (in this case me) challenges this (Greek) narrative from true history, we get irrational, false outbursts (in this case against me that I regard as offensively and slanderously false) like this:
    (e) “You are clearly an Ebionite/Judaizer.”
    And
    (f) “You are rejecting the authority and inspiration of the apostolic community by your insinuations, not to mention Christ Himself”

    I do not have space here (and I suspect that Robert would not give it to me anyway) to refute this malicious nonsense against me.

    o – 0 – o

    # As all of you know, I do not live in any denominational ghetto – especially a US denominational ghetto. And you will find that over 80% of remaining Christians in the “Anglosphere” and the European Union have likewise rejected these ghettos, having lost confidence in “Constantinian” denominations.

    In the US, the largest denomination is Roman Catholicism, and the second largest is “ex-Catholic” (i.e. a post-denominational Catholic), and when all US denominations are included, the largest “denomination” in the US is the “post-denominational” Christian).

    In the EU, as an indicator of the shattering failure of Constantinian “christianity”, of those who still take Christianity seriously, less that 5% attend any Church (denomination) with any degree of regularity.

    In Germany, official denominations are wealthy purely on account of the state tax system – if it were not for this tax, all would be bankrupt, and stripped of all assets thru asset-sales.

    And in European Francophonie: France, Francophone Belgium and Francophone Switzerland, there are now (in 2012) 20% more witches of the “old religion” than there are christian clergy from all denominations combined. A similar situation is brewing in Italy with respect to stregheria (the Italian “old religion”).

    In Malta, 98% of regular-attendee RC’s believe in the “molochi” – the evil eye, and an unacceptably high % of Greek Orthodox do likewise, draping “eye-charms” etc over Icons as a form of superstitious “protection”.

    And the largest growing, non-fundamentalist group of Christians in the US and EU are those in “Intentional Communities” – those who have rejected Constantinian christianity as false, have rejected the post-Apostolic “sacrament” of confession as an unnecessary irrelevance, and who see nothing but trouble in that other post-Apostolic “sacrament” – that of Episcopacy. And where both these “sacraments” are seen as illegitimate and an impediment to true Christian Faith and Practice. And where they have de-clericalised the remainder of legitimate sacraments and sacramentals.

    In the white, western RC orbit, if the RC church imposed upon its remaining faithful the Orthodox schema where successful attendance at the Confessional is THE prerequisite for receiving the Eucharist (technically still on the RC books but unenforced), 97% of these remaining faithful would simply walk out, leaving RC church buildings and the $ collection-plates empty.

    Whether you want or like to face it or not, Constantinian Orthodoxy is facing a similar situation. Where the “smile” from Lewis Carroll’s cheshire cat lingers long after the cat itself has disappeared.

    To both Robert and Vincent I would like to address a serious question which transcends the entire stated purpose of this blog:
    “that the site was intended to be a place of dialogue between Eastern Orthodox, Reformed, and Evangelicals.” (Robert – December 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm)
    and the question is this:
    Why waste time arguing the arrangement of the deck-chairs (in this case by engaging in denominational ”sheep-stealing” thru defections) on this barque, when the whole Constantinian “Titanic” has hit the iceberg and is sinking fast?

    Folks, the Second Coming of Yeshua is fast-approaching, There are fields “white unto harvest” out there, longing to hear the true and saving, non-Constantinian gospel of Jesus the Christ.

    He will not commend those commissioned to be the harvesters who with perfect immobility waste time on the sidelines arguing the differential merits of the Constantinian Protestant Evangelical (perhaps Calvinist) sickle versus the Orthodox Constantinian scythe, when there is a mechanised and non-Constantinian combine harvester – greased, oiled and fueled up with blades sharp, ready to go into the fields for the harvest.

    Are either of you trained to drive this “combine harvester”? I am, and have been patiently trying to impart to you its “driving skills”. If neither of you either have or want the requisite driving-skills, nor want to drive this “combine harvester”, you will leave me with no option other than to follow Robert’s advice:
    “ If you do not hold membership in a church in either one of these traditions, it may be better for you to be a lurker” (December 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm)
    as I take your leave to go out into those fields as a harvester.

    My unswerving commitment is to the all-Jewish, circumcised Yeshua of Biblical history who announced the arrival of the saving “Kingdom of Heaven” for all those who would listen and enter therein. It is not to a pallid, counterfeit, un-Biblical Hellenised and Romanised European “Christ of faith” stripped of His essential Jewish-ness and presented as an anti-Jewish saviour-figure – that holds to the notion that His foster-brother James is a believer in a “Judaising, Ebionite” “heresy”.

    Fare thee well, and may God be with thee,
    John.

      1. Karen,

        John has said goodbye so I don’t expect to hear from him on your question. Regretfully he has rejected both the Orthodox and mainstream Protestant ecclesiology for one that is highly unusual. I think his long comments have been a distraction to the dialogue I hope to have on the OrthodoxBridge, that is, between Eastern Orthodox, Reformed, and Evangelicals.

        Robert

        1. Thanks, Robert. I agree. On the other hand, he strikes me as a good example of where “just me, my Bible, and my take on history” can lead any of us, and where Orthodoxy doesn’t suffer quite the same vulnerability as does a lot of the Evangelical Protestantism I came from.

        2. I also was wondering as I read his comments what he might do with the testimony of Fr. James Bernstein, a convert from Judaism, (and others like him) who see the clear continuity and greater connection between Orthodox faith and worship and that of their Jewish heritage.

    1. John,

      While I am but the chief of sinners, and in no place to judge, I cannot help but repeat my assertions that you are peddling nonsense that is, at the very least ridiculous, and at worst, outright blasphemy.

      There is zero evidence — none — that the NT was written originally in any other language but Greek. In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls prove that Greek was widely accepted by even the strictest of Judaic sects at time before and during Christ’s first Advent here on earth, with many documents and Scriptures being penned in Greek within those findings.

      As far as the repeated assertions against the “Hellenized,” “Constantinian” Church, I can only say this: Constantine the Great is a Saint, and neither you nor I are. I’m rather certain that I’ll never be one, in fact, but I do know that I can honor him with the respect he deserves for emancipating the Christian faith from underground and without a chance to evangelize the world.

      In peace,
      Vincent

      1. Vincent,

        John has said goodbye to us. Let us leave him in peace. Please refrain from posting any more responses to John.

        Robert

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