1 - Scripture and tradition in the Church Cambridge Companions Online - Cambridge University Press

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1 - Scripture and tradition in the Church

pp. 21-34

  • The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology
  • Edited by:
  • Publisher:

  • Online Publication Date:
  • March 2009
  • Print Publication Year:
  • 2008

  • Hardback ISBN:
  • 9780521864848
  • Online ISBN:
  • 9781139001977
  • Paperback ISBN:
  • 9780521683388

From an Orthodox perspective, scripture, tradition and Church are viewed as a comprehensive unity with interdependent parts. Scripture finds its centre in the mystery of the eternal Christ, veiled in the Old Testament and revealed in the New. Tradition in its theological substance is defined by the gospel, the sum of scripture's saving message - namely, the good news of God's saving work in Christ and the Spirit by which the powers of sin and death are overcome and the life of the new creation is inaugurated, moving towards the eschatological glorification of the whole cosmos. The Church itself, the ongoing living community of God's people, far from being a mere historical appendage, is the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit, constitutive of revelation. As such, the Church forms the very ground from which scripture and tradition emerge and together, in turn, make up a coherent source of revelation, the supreme norm for the life of the Church.


To know the nature of the Bible is to acquire insights into its origins, contents, character, purpose and saving value. In terms of divine inspiration, the primary author of scripture is God himself. Scripture represents God's 'oracles' or sacred words (logia theou, Romans 3:2). St Justin Martyr (around AD 150) cited many of the Old Testament texts (the New Testament had not yet fully been established) with the words 'God speaks' or 'God says' as the immediate speech of God. The later Church Fathers continued this tradition and viewed the entire corpus of scripture, Old and New Testaments, as directly inspired by God and disclosing God’s express will. On that basis, because God is the main actor both behind and in the Bible, the Orthodox tradition advocates the supreme authority and primacy of scripture.

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