Thursday, August 30, 2007

Doctoring Doctrine, Part III

I just finished reading an interesting Orthodox critique of sola Scriptura, written by convert Fr. John Whiteford, which a kind reader pointed out to me. In it I encountered yet another translation of questionable merit in the NIV.

In 2 Thes 2:15, we are told (in the NIV), "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." According to Fr. Whiteford, the Greek word translated here as "teachings", paradosis, literally means "what is transmitted", and should be translated as "tradition". The Greek Orthodox use this word to refer to their Sacred Traditions.

Where paradosis is treated negatively in scripture (e.g., Mark 3:8), the NIV translates it as "tradition" (as in, the dirty, bad stuff used by those dirty, bad Catholics and Orthodox). Where paradosis is treated positively in scripture (e.g., 2 Thes 2:15 supra, 1 Cor 11:2), the NIV has it translated as "teachings". The lesson then is clear: teachings are good, and tradition is bad. This makes a substantive impact on the meaning of infallible Writ, and definitely affected my attitude towards Apostolic churches for some time. I am glad to learn that "tradition" is spoken of positively in Scripture!

There is no need for the NIV to provide their attempted distinction between good and bad "tradition", because the text itself is sufficient. In each instance paradoseis is qualified as either "of men" or "from me (or us)". Here is a clear and easy rule: trust not teaching that is transmitted by vain men, but what is transmitted from the Apostles (whether it be directly or by epistle).

Separately, do check out Fr. Stephen’s Orthodox Blog for an excellent analysis of the Greek language in 1 John 1:6-7. He stresses a weakness endemic to English translations, where ‘koinonia’ with God should be treated as “communion” instead of “fellowship.” Wonderful stuff!

This all reminds me that we need qualified teachers bound to a normative standard to transmit the teachings of Sacred Scripture. (My apologies in advance for any botched conversions of Greek into our Roman alphabet.)

5 comments:

Joseph said...

Excellent sources you've picked up. I spent alot of time on the orthodoxinfo.com web site during my discernment. I enjoyed both the article and the blog.

Thank you.

Canadian said...

Thos,
Funny thing...I just picked up this little booklet yesterday after attending my second Great Vespers service at the local Orthodox mission. I am a mystery and liturgy starved Baptist who finds myself looking east and toward Lutheranism for a sacramental, historic expression of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Vespers has much that is beautiful and a surprising amount of doctrinal content in the chanted service itself.
Darrin

Thos said...

Darrin,

Good hearing from you. I have to admit that I've been inclined to visit my local Orthodox church for Great Vespers now for several weeks, but am too chicken to go! The church was good enough to do a really nice "what to expect" website, and it has me kinda freaked out. How did you fit in? Did someone invite you and show you the ropes? I'll do it eventually.

I hope you can have even more hope than to find an expression of the One True Church. Do keep in touch.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Canadian said...

Brother Thos,
I had talked with the priest once at a local trade fair where he was set up. He used to be the local Anglican priest and I was curious as to his recent conversion to Orthodoxy, so I phoned him. Vespers does not have the eucharist so you will not have to worry about being refused communion. The icons, incense, chant, etc were all strange but beautiful. It is moving to have read 15 or 16 hundred year old descriptions of the liturgies in Cyril of Jerusalem and other Fathers, and then hear the same words said with such reverence and joy today. Some of the theology is so un-western, but I don't want to just dismiss them out of hand.
I stood in the back and did not come up for the veneration of the cross or the icons etc. Though I would love to receive the body and blood of Christ there--and with real wine too, thank God! (I resent Mr. Welsch's disobedience by introducing our juice substitute) Father Johnston sat with me for over an hour after both services answering questions. He even showed me the alter and all the "stuff" behind the iconostasis. Fascinating. You have mentioned Father Stephen's blog before...funny, no one seems to have the ability to reach into my heart and pour Christ's warm living water like him. So, all this to say...I still breathe the air of the Christian West, and am subject to our deep presuppositions and theological views. The East challenges some of these and I better listen....just in case :-)
Darrin

Thos said...

Darrin,

This is PREMIER advise, thank you. I am encouraged (since I have a yellow stripe down my back) to know that I can stand in the back and observe a Vespers (and good point that it's not a communion service, so that'll be more comfortable for me too).

My current book is Ware's "The Orthodox Church", and I'm trying to obsorb as well as I can the Eastern mindset. I'll let you know how it goes!

Peace in Christ,
Thos.