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The Orthodox Nationalist: Principles in Biblical Interpretation – TON 050819

Dr Matthew Raphael Johnson talks about the importance of context and witnesses from the original time period, when trying to interpret what the Bible is saying to us today.

How can the alienated, modern man get any benefit from a set of books written for and within a civilization that hasn't existed for thousands of years? He cannot. This is our problem.

The Bible is a compendium of 74 books, carefully placed together by the synodal voice of the universal church over roughly 200 years. The church existed before the Bible did. The church put the Bible together, not the other way around. This church was visible, was governed by ancient canons and maintained a strict sacramental structure from the earliest moments of its existence. As such, these same men are charged with providing a general and authoritative interpretation of it. That 99 percent of Christians have no idea what I'm talking about is a good indication of its present state.

If the reader doesn't know the ancient symbols, the Bible is just words upon which the reader inadvertently projects meaning upon. The worst thing to do is to read these passages as if one were reading a magazine, but this is the American way. The words, even in translation, often don't mean what modern people think they mean. Love, heart, sin, death, Hades, prostitution and so on bear little relation to their modern usage. 

For example, Death was a place, as well as a state. Hades was the place of the dead, and is not Hell. It is a place of semi-existence. Death could also mean the separation of soul from the body. People who live solely for material pleasures were “dead.” Today, all is reduced to quantity, so death is just the cessation of a heartbeat or brain waves. Actual, physical cessation of breathing was not as important as these other concepts of death.

Still, this is just one issue.

I love how amateurs who just decided to get “into” this topic last month discover “contradictions” and “tensions” in the Bible. My reaction is always to thank these people. “Where would we be without you? Three or four millennia of herminutics hasn't revealed these problems to the world, but you have! Thank you.”

Its a mockery.

I do not put myself forth as an authority. I can only transmit a tiny portion of what the church has stated before me. However, since we live in unprecedented times, the act of bringing these ideas to this postmodern morass is extremely difficult. In this limited respect, I do believe I have a role to perform.

My personal opinion is that the ancient concerns about popular Bible reading are correct. Outside of the witness of the saints (i.e. the church), much of this will be gibberish to the modern mind. Popular Bible reading is good, so long as we do not insert our own personal opinions into obscure passages. If the reader is cut off from the patristic witness – that is the herminutics of those who arranged the Bible and defended it – then please spare us your opinions. In your case, it would be an act of blasphemy.

Produced by Matt Johnson

The Orthodox Nationalist: Principles in Biblical Interpretation – TON 050819


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