Scripture and Its Interpretation

A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible


14. Orthodox Interpretation of Scripture

Reviewing the Chapter

  1. How does this chapter describe Orthodoxy/the Eastern Church, and which aspects of it make it difficult to describe Orthodox principles of biblical interpretation with precision?
  2. What were some of the key developments in Orthodoxy’s approach to biblical interpretation in the first five centuries of the church, and which key figures contributed to those developments?
  3. During the next thousand years, what were some of the key developments in Orthodoxy’s approach to biblical interpretation, and which key figures contributed to those developments?
  4. Name and briefly explain the Orthodox principles of scriptural interpretation identified by Fr. John Breck and discussed in this chapter.
  5. Identify and describe the Orthodox principle of interpretation that the chapter calls Orthodoxy’s “characteristic feature.”
  6. What are the three main approaches to biblical interpretation found among Orthodox biblical scholars today, and what are some of the current challenges facing Orthodox Christians with respect to scriptural interpretation?
  7. How is Orthodox scriptural interpretation both similar to and different from Roman Catholic interpretation, on the one hand, and Protestant interpretation, on the other?

Engaging a Central Issue

Respond to the following claim Edith Humphrey makes in this chapter (p. 266): “What remains constant [in Orthodox scriptural interpretation] is the conviction that the Bible speaks as the vital core of Holy Tradition, not across a divide of two thousand or more years, but through and in the company of the faithful.”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What are the limitations and strengths of reading the Scriptures according to the historical-critical method, and how do these compare with the methods of the ancient Fathers?
  2. Is a typological approach more congenial to contemporary understandings of Scripture than allegorical interpretation?
  3. Is the call to theoria, or recognition of an iconic transformative element in Scripture, an element that complicates or enriches public discourse on the Bible?
  4. What is the difference between sola Scriptura and prima Scriptura, and how might this be played out in the work of biblical interpreters?