No Suss

It’s good that my husband is not suspicious because that confession lasted a very long time. A more suspicious man might wonder what kind of sins I have that require such a long enumeration. In reality, though, the priest and I got into a theological debate over the need to read the Old Testament.

9 thoughts on “No Suss

    1. I really don’t like the Old Testament. I don’t understand it’s logic. I don’t understand what it’s supposed to be teaching one. I understand the literary value but beyond that, it’s hard.

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      1. “I really don’t like the Old Testament. I don’t understand it’s logic.”

        What an interesting comment. But what’s logical about religious belief anyway?

        In Christianity it is the sola scriptura folks who cannot escape attempting to reconcile through logic and reason the texts of the New and Old Testament. In the several centuries since the Reformation, it’s proven to be a theological blind alley that leads to the creation of endless denominational confusion.

        In Orthodoxy, it’s tradition that guides believers on which parts of the Old Testament are most relevant for the faithful. It is not without significance that the Old Testament Psalms is perhaps the most cited of any book in the Bible during formal Orthodox worship.

        Personally, I prefer having this set menu because there’s no need for me to struggle with determining the relevant parts.

        Jesus Himself provided a compact synthesis of the unifying principles (could this perhaps be what you mean by logic?) of the Old and New Testament in answering a trick question from a Pharisee lawyer — “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

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  1. Interesting, I’ve started reading the Old Testament this week. I always felt that coming form the Christian tradition, one should now the basic texts at least. I know the New Testament in and out but the old has been always a huge mess in my head. So far so good, I really enjoy it but I’m still on Genesis.

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  2. The key to enjoying and understanding the OT as a whole is in thinking analogically, and in pattern discernment. It’s mythology. Mythology manifesting as history, even now. Which is the reason it is relevant and real. True, that is. It’s a mystical anthropology that describes the sacred cosmic order through the sacred history of Israel. It’s all about mythic – prophetic – patterns that are pertinent and definitive even now.

    There’s an Orthodox Quebecois youtuber/iconographer Johnathan Pageau, who takes a post modern foil and lacerates the desiccated secular materialistic nominalism that has pickled and polluted, deracinated our minds. He tries to recapture the mystical power – the real magic – of symbols, to see them as real in themselves in a way that corresponds in a non arbitrary way – an essential way – with reality. ( cf. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wITJ3r96hKQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VLPDSRL5f4 ) He draws us toward the mindset of Antiquity and Medieval Christendom.. The mindset of the people who wrote the Bible.

    Which to say that the Old and New Testaments form an integral prophetic – mystical, mythical, sacred – pattern that if you see the world through the eyes of Christian faith saturates everything. Which is to say that the Old is consummate in the New, and Genesis made complete in the Apocalypse. You need to read commentary to understand this deeply – the Church Fathers, people like Joachim of Fiore, Hildegard von Bingen.. Or look at medieval art, like this https://duckduckgo.com/?q=florence+baptistry+doors&t=brave&ia=web

    Alexander Schmemann in For the Life of the World (read it : https://www.amazon.com/Life-World-Sacraments-Orthodoxy/dp/0913836087 ) lays this out in sacramental and liturgical terms. There’s a Catholic scholar Brad Pitre ( https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Brad+Pitre&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2 ) who writes really amazing Biblical analyses where he points out the prophetic patterns that link all the texts and stories. He’s one of the best I’ve read that does this, I recommend especially his books on the Blessed Virgin – the Most Holy Theotokos – and the Eucharist.

    There are particular OT books that are terrific, that I think you might really like, if you haven’t read them already. I always tell people to start with The Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, because they are beautiful. Then, there are of course Jonah, Judith and Tobit. These are ancient short stories, almost novellas, and are incredible. Jonah and Tobit are both very funny, full of irony and emotion. Jonah is brilliant satire, and Tobit one of my very favorite love stories. Pay attention to the details like the companion dog, and Sarah’s father digging a grave on the wedding night. This is pure comedy, and very gentle and sweet.

    Judith is a concise heroic epic, in which a woman saves all Israel from the Assyrians (Nineveh, Babylon). Any time a second or third wave feminist tells me that Christianity or the Bible is misogynistic (which has happened multiple times to me, can you believe it? ) I tell them to read Judith. It’s the story of how a girl severs then smashes the Dragon’s head, saves the whole people, and becomes their Queen.

    I had to rewrite a paper on Judith for one of my professors three times, because we disagreed so deeply about the text. I told him that Adam comes from a hole in the ground, but Eve comes from the hole next Adam’s heart. Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? The Queen of Revelation, crowned with an aureole of stars.

    He didn’t quite understand what I was talking about, and didn’t appreciate my point that as Woman comes from Man Man comes from Woman, Man falls by Woman then by Woman Man is saved. It’s all there, in Genesis 3, Luke 1, Revelation 12 and Judith. He was too busy being fixated on the horror of menstrual purity laws in Leviticus to see he was being misogynistic.. Which is pretty ironic, because he called himself a feminist.

    There’s also deep consolation in Job, because it addresses theodicy and the mysterium iniquitatus beautifully. Just don’t listen to the modernist nihilistic textual critics who say the “unpersuasive happy ending” was tacked on by a later writer to soften the existential ferocity of the text, because the ending is the entire point of the story. Justice and mercy reign. Our present travail is passing, and the tragedy will resolve into gladness. Ignore the sneering satanists when they deny it.

    I’ll end here by telling you to also read the book of Wisdom. Apart from the Gospel of John, it is my favorite book in the Bible.

    Also, if don’t yet, start praying the Psalms. It will change your life. There is a beautiful psalter published by Jordanville’s monastic press that uses the Miles Coverdale translation – my favorite English version of the Bible – corrected for accuracy using interpolations from the Douay Rheims and arranged for prayer according to the traditional Orthodox kathismata. The book itself is pocket sized, and I carry it everywhere. I need to cover it, or I’ll destroy it soon.

    If you start praying the Psalms, I bet you’ll start to get the Hebrew Bible. That’s the best way to appreciate it. That’s how you’ll learn to love it. That’s what I recommend.

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  3. @ CRC
    Thank you for your wonderful and insightful comment. I will certainly look up some of the references you mention.

    The OT prefigures the NT, and the best way to understand this concept in all its glory is to use the Orthodox Study Bible (ISBN 0718003594) which reads all the books of the OT in the light of the life-giving grace of Christ’s fulfillment of the ancient prophecies.
    As I come to the Orthodox faith from the Jewish tradition, this has been a delightful way of reading familiar texts with greater insight and understanding.

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  4. Re why read OT, it’s useful to understand my country and the history of half of your ancestors.
    It’s not re good or evil, or who is right, to me.

    Something curious re греческих магических папирусах and Bible:

    Мой дорогой невидимый друг
    https://anairos.livejournal.com/183552.html

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    1. I understand reading it as literature or history. Immense value! But this is specifically about reading it as part of Orthodox Christian practice.

      I love the Proverbs and the Psalms. It’s Genesis and Exodus that I don’t get.

      A literary critic has to be very familiar with the Bible, obviously.

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      1. Ok, I seem to be missing something here, what is it about Genesis and Exodus that is causing you to struggle? I mean is it a question of why is it in the Word of God, or what is its purpose? What’s causing the issue?

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