The Canon (Part 2)

Questions to think about during this lesson…

  • Why does the Orthodox Church use the Septuagint?
  • The Septuagint was the text of the Jews for hundreds of years. It’s also much older than the time of Christ, so it was NOT a Christian creation. Nevertheless, because the Septuagint is Greek (and not Hebrew), many people ignore it and discount its validity and importance. In fact, even though in certain places the Septuagint is superior to the Hebrew in preserving the original text, the Septuagint is very much downplayed and very often ignored in scholarly circles. Why is this?
  • How do the Dead Sea Scrolls prove the validity and accuracy of the Septuagint in certain places?
  • Usually new discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, are used to correct subsequent versions of the Bible. But many scholars of the Hebrew Bible absolutely refuse to acknowledge the fact that the Septuagint preserved an older version than what they actually have in Hebrew. There’s a very strong bias among the scholars of the Hebrew Bible. Why do you think this is… and what are your thoughts on this?
  • The Septuagint was the standard Old Testament for all Christians for about 1,500 years. But today, most Old Testaments included in English bibles are not a translation from the Septuagint… rather, they’re a translation from the Hebrew. Yet the vast majority of the Christians in the world are Catholics and Orthodox, who recognize the Septuagint. How do you explain this?
  • How does the nature of a language with no vowels leave a certain amount of discretion to the reader? (Hint: If a word in the English language, for example, has no vowels — such as “md” — the word could be mood, mid, mud, maid, mode, made, etc.)
  • Who were the Masorites… around what century did they operate… and what is the Masoretic Text? (Hint: Remember, the Hebrew language contains no vowels.)
  • How is it that the Septuagint is more than 1,200 years older than the Masoretic Text?
  • How do the Dead Sea Scrolls prove the accuracy of the Masoretic Text?
  • Why do Protestants have fewer books in their Old Testament canon than Catholics and Orthodox?
  • Why did Martin Luther want to remove the book of James from the New Testament?
  • What specific Old Testament books do Protestants call “Apocrypha?” (Hint: You may need to look this up on your own.)
  • How does the term “Apocrypha” differ between Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox?
  • What are the “Deuterocanonicals?”
  • Which council fixed the canon of Scripture for Catholics?
  • Why don’t the Orthodox recognize the Council of Trent?
  • Why shouldn’t Orthodox Christians refer to certain Old Testaments books as “Apocrypha” or “Deuterocanonicals” like the Protestants and Catholics do, respectively?
  • Why haven’t the Orthodox ever officially fixed their canon of Scripture?
  • St. John Chrysostom had a 22-book New Testament canon, yet our New Testament canon today is 27 books. Basil the Great accepted the Book of Revelation, but Gregory the Theologian did not list it in his New Testament canon. Yet all of these Fathers were orthodox in doctrine. In other words, you can have a different canon yet still be completely orthodox in doctrine. How is this possible?
  • The Eastern Christians are pretty comfortable with a certain amount of ambiguity. They don’t feel the need to delineate and define everything, such as “THESE are the books and you must accept these books and ONLY these books in your canon.” Frankly, in the Orthodox Church, definitions are made only when absolutely necessary. Very rarely can anything be said to be the “official position” of the Orthodox Church. In fact, except in the area of dogma (basically, the Creed) and clear issues of morality, generally speaking, the Orthodox Church allows a very high degree of freedom of opinion. What are your thoughts on this — particularly in regard to discussion of an “official” canon?

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