The Centrality of the Scriptures

The Bible is, after the Cross, the most notable symbol of the Christian Faith—thus in modern western lands, oaths in court were always taken by placing one’s hand upon the Bible and then swearing by it that one would tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Swearing upon a Bible meant swearing by the Christian God. Trampling upon a Bible or burning it therefore did not denote simply disdain for a book, but one’s emphatic rejection of Christianity and the Church which proclaimed and preserved it. To burn a Bible was not merely burning a book which one intensely disliked; it was an act of iconoclasm, for the Bible functioned as an icon of the entire Christian Faith. That is why in Orthodox icons, bishops are depicted holding a book—the Gospel book from which they preached, for the task of bishops was to teach the Scriptures, and the Gospels form the crown of the Scriptures.

The Scriptures are at the heart of Orthodox Tradition and are central to the Orthodox faith. Concerning their importance, St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote,

In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not the least part may be handed on without the holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Do not give ready belief unless you receive from the holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in which we believe is proved not from clever reasoning, but from the holy Scriptures.1

Or, more concisely, “The Bible is the main written source of divine doctrine since God Himself inspired it by His Holy Spirit.”2

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  1. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 4.17.

  2. Thomas Hopko, The Orthodox Faith, Volume 1 (opens in a new tab) (New York: Orthodox Church in America, 1981), 15.