3tural change and by his own failure to live in the light and truth of God, the modern OrthodoxChristian must make every effort to comprehend the doctrinal and liturgical foundations of his tradi-tion and to express that comprehension in a living faith. Only then will he be able to perform hisduty of preserving and passing on “the whole system of doctrine, Church government, worship, andart which Orthodoxy has articulated over the ages.”3 In seeking to carry out this task, it will be nec-essary to construct a specifically Orthodox critique of the predominantly secular, non-Orthodox andeven anti-Christian beliefs and values of the present age. And an important part of this overall pro- ject will be the serious study of the content and meaning of Holy Scripture and the development of aworld perspective that is grounded in and expressive of what Fr. Georges Florovsky has called “thescriptural mind.”4For these (and other) reasons, then, Orthodox Christians should make the reading and studyof Holy Scripture a central concern of their lives. The Bible is, of course, a very large and complexcollection of documents; and it is possible for the beginning Bible reader to get lost in the details of the sacred texts. What is important, as one seeks to develop a “scriptural mind,” is to strive for asense of the overall message of God's written Word, “a grasp of the Scriptures in their totality.”5 Itis, in fact, the major purpose of this book to present a coherent survey of the central themes of theHoly Bible, and to outline, from the standpoint of Orthodox biblical theology, the general messageof God's scriptural revelation.
The Books of the Holy Bible
The Bible contains two major parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. From thestandpoint of historic Christianity, the Bible is the book of salvation, a primary revelation of themanner in which God has acted and is acting to deliver humankind from the forces of evil. Man wasintended to live in eternal fellowship with God, but has instead rebelled against his Creator. Havingalienated himself from God, man has cut himself off from that spiritual wisdom, that moral andspiritual perfection and that eternal life which God originally intended him to enjoy. As a result of this self-induced alienation from God, man is lost and in bondage to the world, the flesh and thedevil. But God has acted, in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ, to save man from hisalienated condition. And God has revealed himself, his will and his plan for the salvation of the hu-man race to the patriarchs and prophets of ancient Israel and to the apostles of Jesus — not in writ-ing, but by way of direct revelation. The Bible is the written record of that original and unwrittenrevelation. The Old Testament tells the story of God's dealings with ancient Israel from approxi-mately 2000 B.C. until the time of Jesus; and it contains, as its central message, God's promise tosave mankind and the world through the “anointed one” (Messiah, Christ) of Israel. And the NewTestament proclaims Jesus of Nazareth to be the promised Christ, who has, through his life anddeeds, fulfilled the divine plan of salvation and made it possible for man to be reconciled to God.The text of the Old Testament, which was originally composed in Hebrew (and partly inAramaic), has been historically transmitted in both a Hebrew and a Greek version. (Ancient Latinversions have also survived, but these are translations from either the Greek or the Hebrew texts).These two versions (the Hebrew and the Greek) reflect a dispute among the Jews of the late pre-Christian and early Christian periods concerning the precise content and meaning of their SacredScriptures. One major element in that dispute had to do with the total number of books that should be regarded as divinely inspired and thus authoritative. Some Jews held to a “longer” canon of forty-nine books (the Greek word kanon means “standard” and has come to be used in the sense of “authoritative text”), while others adhered to a “shorter” canon containing thirty-nine books. Thosewho favored the shorter canon also thought that some portions of a few of the thirty-nine booksshould be deleted from Sacred Scripture (for example, certain parts of the books of Esther and