Bible Reading

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Even though I said I’d continue last week’s discussions about Bible reading among the Orthodox, I didn’t actually think I’d do it.  I usually forget to do such things. But then, as I was clearing my desk last Friday I stumbled across a paper written by V. Rev. Rodney Torbic entitled (of all things!)  “A Survey: Bible Reading Among Orthodox Christians.”

Written in 1998 I remember Fr. Rodney calling me (I was still in Atlanta) and conducting the survey over the phone. He makes some interesting observations. For example, he notes:

“One person reported asking a previous parish priest why Bibles were not more available in church and was told it was out of fear of misinterpretation. (A former church school teacher from a separate parish said he heard a comparable remark from a hierarch at a teacher seminar.) This same person commented on a perceived lack of Bibles at church camp. As a result of the response on the questionaire, the current parish priest stated his intention to preach a sermon on the importance of personal Bible reading.”

In light of last week’s comments about Orthodox not knowing Bible facts, I also found this in Fr. Rodney’s study:

“At least one person indicated she would not sign her name because she doesn’t remember alot from the reading she does. Others may not have responded for the same reason.”

I spoke with Fr. Rodney last summer and, if I remember correctly, he said he’s been thinking of doing another survey. For what it’s worth, I think it did a lot of good. He notes:

“In a conversation with a parishioner about the survey, it became apparent this former church school teacher and church member for decades did not know about the daily Bible readings of the Church. When told of them and shown the calendar distributed freely each year, he said this was something which needed to be preached in sermons. Indeed, from time to time, this very topic has been referred to in sermons. Obviously, it had not registered with him….”

15 thoughts on “Bible Reading

  1. After informing my priest that I was struggling with doubts about my faith, he recommended that I get a one-year Bible. I’ve been reading it every day on his direction. I was surprised to discover that I really enjoy reading Scripture. I read it more now as an Orthodox Christian than I ever did as a Presbyterian!

    Juliana

  2. Thanks for your personal response to my comment above, Fr Milovan. I just want to add that not only do I always bring my own bible with me to services (in a cloth bible case with the brand label “Witness Gear” on it, and a fob with the Chinese character for “blessed” (Greek, makarios) hanging from the zipper), but I always have a bible or at least a New Testament with me wherever I go. My winter hood has on the left sleeve just below the shoulder a little pocket that is probably meant for “smokes”, but mine contains a soft cover New Testament. Wherever I find myself out in the world, if I am not occupied in social interaction, such as waiting in the doctor’s office or at Jiffy Lube, I pull it out and read it. I also have done this when using public transport ever since I was 24 (I’m 57 now), and it has opened many, many doors for me to share with others the good news of Jesus Christ. I don’t regard this with anything like ambition or pride, because I just leave myself open to God for Him to use my bible reading to draw people to Him, and He does. I rarely get to see “the end of the story” but I often witness the immediate effect my sharing the love of God has on a stranger. It’s as though I am watching Jesus Himself melt the heart and comfort the wounds that it hides in the other person, and in fact, that’s what is happening. I do nothing, I say nothing, that I don’t hear the Lord Jesus saying or see Him doing, by faith.

  3. Christopher – I think you’re absolutely right, the fact people come is “a great grace”. On the other hand, there is a problem with future generations. At least in the Serbian Church and I image this would apply to Greek, Russian, etc. Perhaps the “great grace” which brings people to church is simply traditions, which they hold on to with dear life. Younger generations don’t have the same feeling towards traditions and, at times, I image some would go off to more “Bible-based” churches, not realizing that we are in fact the most Bible based.

    Niko – Something sinister did happen indeed but the news has been ever since the fall of Communism that more and more young people are attending churches. Sometimes I wonder if a similar thing would take hold of America, would the youth ‘return’ to their Christian roots?

    Moses – Causes delusion?!? I’ll have to remember that…whenever I don’t want to do something I’ll say it causes delusion.

    Romanos – When I was in High school I worked part time at a restaurant. A co worker of mine was getting ready for Seminary (Protestant). He carried with him a little black Bible and every time we’d talk he took it out to make his point. It impressed me so much I went to the store and bought the same kind of Bible. Though I used it (and still do) I never carried it around like he did. Thanks for your comment, maybe I’ll start carrying it around again.

    Fr. Rodney – “If a person reads the Bible with regularity, the content will become a part of the person and will help shape the person’s life….” Thanks Father. If I may say so, you are proof of that theory.

    Lana – I had the blog while I was doing my readings but I wasn’t using it as much. Actually, I was hardly using it. I’m looking for to not only the readings but using the blog to make notes as I go.

    Athanasia – Welcome to Orthodoxy. Maybe it’s good you stopped with your readings. Don’t want to go delusional!!

    Tony-Allen – I can image Bible Study would be quite fascinating with Baptists around. That is if they are willing to learn something new and not just tell us that we miss the whole point of the Bible and that our faith is “wrong”.

  4. A while ago, my priest sent me a link to a blog about Greeks in Australia who converted to Islam (since I myself had briefly been in Islam). He wanted me to report back what I saw, and speak to them (in other words, evangelize!). I got in a nice e-mail conversation with the woman who ran the blog, and debated with members of the blog’s forum. The biggest problem I saw is that none of them knew what the Trinity was, and most of all none of them really knew their scripture. They knew only a little to begin with, and then when they converted to Islam they memorized all the distorted passages Muslims teach them to supposedly “prove” Islam got it right and the Church got it wrong about Jesus.

    Personally, I find it important we know our scripture. As much as one can learn about other faiths and what they believe, if they don’t know what THEY believe, then they’re in trouble. I’m thankful there’s a Bible Study at my church…although the fundamentalist Baptists who attend it and annoy everyone sometimes can be a pain.

  5. Since converting to Orthodoxy, I have set aside regular Bible reading. I have found it hard to read the Bible for what it is worth and not analyze it like I used to, seeking ‘interpretation’ of a particular passage. I think this is the old baggage that I am trying to set aside.

    This is not to say that I do not value the Bible and reading it because I do. Right now my focus is on learning to pray. I have the Psalter of the 70 and have been blessed to pray that.

    I would appreciate a Bible study at my parish, taught by my priest or someone else that is Orthodox. I think that might help change the mindset a little.

  6. I grew up with a mother who was constantly reading the Bible. Her dedication was sometimes looked upon as “non-orthodox” or “non-serbian” and seemed to be more appreciated and fostered in her non-orthodox circle of friends. They would spend hours at the table talking about Christ and the Bible. As a kid, I didn’t always appreciate that, but as an adult, I realize just how right she always had it and am very grateful. She still reads the Bible daily (numerous times a day) and one will often find her snuggled in her bed, glasses tilted, completely absorbed and savoring each word as if she had never seen that passage before. When she visits, I often crawl in bed with her and she will read whatever passages moved her that day or whatever she felt would apply to struggles in life in general. Even though she was my example, it took me until 40 to start reading the daily readings. Now, I couldn’t imagine not doing so but finding people to talk about it can be challenging.

    By the way, my grandmother couldn’t read, but without fail she would get down on her knees every morning and evening and pray. I have very vivid memories of that from my childhood. She was an exceptionally strong woman, and to see her kneeling was so powerful and unforgettable.

    Father Milovan, maybe we can join your journey through scripture during Lent. Perhaps you can initiate that through your blog? People maybe encouraged to do so knowing that others are out there sharing the same thing. I have never read the Bible completely through from beginning to end but would love to do so…. just a thought.

  7. (The previous post was sent before I was done)
    Bible reading should be a part of the regular reading practices of Christians. Reading other religious books should not be to the exclusion of reading the Bible.
    The Gospels provide the most efficient format for learning about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Psalms have been called the perfect prayer book. The prophets have words of inspiration that will come to mind throughout life.
    I am not concerned about remembering what is read. If a person reads the Bible with regularity, the content will become a part of the person and will help shape the person’s life.
    Reading the Bible is a way to find daily peace and be in the presence of God. Reading the Bible is part of the Christian life. Believers deny themselves great benefits when not reading the Bible with regularity.
    During Holy Confession, I routine ask the person if the Bible is read regularly. If not, I encourage the person to begin reading the Bible in regular manageable amounts.
    Reading the Bible brings great joy for individuals willing to make the investment.
    Some years ago an obituary appeared in the local Waynesburg paper about a man that had read the Bible fifty times. St. John Chrysostom’s writings reveal his commitment to Bible reading.
    His Grace Bishop Dr.MITROPHAN has written extensively about the New Testament. The soul is strengthened through serious reading of the Bible.
    In the book, The Way of a Pilgrim” , there is an account of the man who defeated alcoholism through reading the Gospel regularly. In the same book, I believe there is an account the value of having a Bible present in the room to ward off evil activity.

    Father Rodney

  8. Father Milovan-Thank you for posting material on Bible reading and for being a excellent example through reading the complete Bible during Great Lent and throughout the year.
    As you know, I am an advocate of regular Bible reading and find great benefit in reading the Bible aloud. Something good happens when a person reads the Bible with regularity and interest.

  9. In my home parish (Aghia Trias Cathedral in Portland OR) we have always had two kinds of books in the pews, the Divine Liturgy, and the Good News Bible (with Apocrypha). I have seen people reading these bibles during points in the service (for example, when the faithful are being communed) when there is no liturgical participation needed. I always bring my bible with me to services, my English Bible to Divine Liturgy, and my Greek New Testament during Saturday vespers, so that I always have at least a little bit of time to read the Word of God out of my own bibles while I am in the church. Bible reading and study has waxed and wained over the twenty years I’ve been a member there. Right now it is rather low, but at other times it has been quite lively; it really depends on who is the priest at the time, and how important he has made it.

    I have never heard that reading the Bible causes delusion, nor have I ever heard that we as laypeople shouldn’t read it. Every priest that I have known has always emphasized the benefit of regular bible reading and study. We also have distributed the Amnos bible reading schedules every year in January. So, as you can see, where I live and worship, Orthodoxy is fairly bible literate.

  10. I knew some very close people that told me reading the bible causes delusion and it is better left unread. Sad reality, I guess we can teach them the bible in other ways if they don’t want to read, but I think we lack the effort (or at least I think I do).

  11. Yes, what Christopher said….

    It’s not only Bible reading, we have many problem areas in Orthodoxy. I began a tradition last year of reading the Bible during Lent. I started on the first day, reading 20 pages a day, and went all the way to Holy Thursday or Friday (can’t remember) when I read the last pages of Revelation. It was a wonderful journey. Next year I plan on starting on the week of the Publican and Pharisee which means I won’t have to read as many pages daily. There were those days that I couldn’t fit the readings in my schedule so I had to carry it over to the next day; with less pages to read this will be a great help.

    I’m looking forward to this Lent. I read the Bible throughout the year, of course, but it is during Lent, the fast, the season of repentance, renewal, the foretaste of the Feast…all of this adds to the excitement of reading, journeying through Scripture.

  12. What he said….

    Something sinister happened to Orthodoxy during and after the socialist revolution that wiped out several generations of believers. It somehow transformed the living Church into a museum.

    I am told by older family members who still remember their parents and grandparents that biblical knowledge and prayer mindedness existed at a much higher level than it does now.

  13. I can’t remember now why I took it up, but I made the commitment to start reading the Liturgy readings on the Orthodox calendar for the duration of the Nativity fast. I took to also reading Psalms if I felt like more Bible reading.

    My Greek priest had been contacted by a seminarian (SVOTS or Holy Cross, I think) about a Bible reading program he was attempting as a study. I think he needed a minimum number of people committing to getting together a certain number of times a month and our priest didn’t think we had the people for it. I think the minimum number was, like, 6. That’s a sorry commentary, but probably realistic.

    I’m not sure how many Orthodox have a morning and evening prayer rule. I’m not sure how many prepare for Communion. We as a religious community don’t seem to be able to get even half of our regular attendees – not to mention the even less frequent Orthodox worshipers – to arrive near the beginning of the Divine Liturgy. We can’t even agree on worshiping in a language people understand thus turning the Liturgy into a ‘holy object’ and teaching our people un-watchfulness as they let their minds wander as the priest drones on incomprehensibly.

    The fact that people nonetheless come to church and are attached to Orthodoxy is a great grace. Is it any wonder, though, that the average Orthodox Christian doesn’t think they have anything to learn apart from rubrics, etiquette and the expected ‘choreography’ for laity and altar server when we purposefully obfuscate the meaning of the supposedly central event of the entire universe: the Eucharist? Put that together with the fact that so much of the Orthodox world was made up of illiterate peasantry and that their ‘culture’ was ghettoized by antagonistic rulers, I find it understandable that Orthodox don’t read the Bible and don’t realize they should. But, until the clergy and hierarchy do more than preach that the Bible should be read, I don’t think any change will happen. If Orthodox knowledge and prayer and worship with understanding is not valued, then why should ‘literary’ knowledge and understanding be valued? Since Orthodox worship is the only real touchstone most Orthodox have in defining Orthodoxy for themselves, the re-valuing of knowledge and understanding has to be ‘exampled’ by the hierarchy and clergy there, first. That will then lead to Scriptural and patristic study.

    But I’m a crazy convert, so what do I know? Bible study’s for Protestants, and maybe monks.

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