Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Interpreting the Bible the Orthodox Way, by Father John A. Peck

This short book offers a summary of the Eastern Orthodox interpretation of the Bible, beginning with the Bible's fundamental connection to the Church through the canon, then goes on to outline the importance of Scripture as liturgy in the early church. The author rather fails to get my sympathy early on in the book with his misleading statement that the Roman Catholic Church did not have an official canon until the Council of Trent.

Peck explains the classic four senses of Scripture, literal,typological, moral and eschatological. He offers for the moral sense, the classic example of Psalm 137:9 with that disturbing stuff about dashing infants' heads. He tells us the Orthodox reader should interpret this as 'little sins.' The problem is that anybody who has a basic grasp of exegesis ought to see that, time-honoured as this interpretation may be, it has nothing to do with what the original author was trying to say. Should we view this as the inspired meaning of the text? In which case, this opens up a hermeneutical minefield, by removing meaning from authorial intent. Or should we take this meaning as the understanding of the pious, which may supersede the original meaning of the passage?

This book offers a basic summary of the Orthodox approach, but it does not engage with other methods of interpreting Scripture. It will therefore be of little use the Christian coming to it with definite views and knowledge of the field of Biblical interpretation.

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