This blog continues the series dealing with the Bible and scriptural issues. It began with the 1st blog: Reading the Bible Means Opening a Treasury. The immediately preceding blog is Reading the Scriptures: The Role of Prayer.
One biblical passage to which I have referred several times in this blog series is John 5:39-40 (RSV), in which Christ teaches:
“You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
The Scriptures according to our Lord Jesus Christ are not the revelation of God, but bear witness to that revelation. As St. John the Evangelist tells us, the Word of God became flesh as Jesus the Christ. The role of the Bible is to bring us to Christ, so that we may know Him which is for us eternal life (John 17:3). The Bible is not more important than Christ for our salvation. The Scriptures bear witness to Christ, and bring us to God’s revelation and to our salvation. Christ is the key to opening the treasury of the Scriptures; He is the One Who is revealed in the Scriptures. Thus the Bible bears witness to our salvation, but it in itself is not our salvation. The Bible points to the revelation of God, to the truth of God’s plan, and thus always points beyond itself to Christ Jesus.
“No one profits by the Gospels unless he is first in love with Christ. For Christ is not a text but a living Person, and He abides in His Body, the Church.” (George Florovsky quoted in THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, p 30)
Thus the goal of the Christian life is not to know the Bible, but rather to let the Scriptures witness to Christ, so that we might know Him.
“When Philip found the eunuch sitting in his chariot reading the hymn of the Suffering Servant from the prophet Isaiah, the eunuch’s question was not the one that we would ask today—‘what is the meaning of this passage?’—as if the ‘meaning’ were located in the text itself, and so in the past, and our task is simply to uncover it, what the text ‘meant,’ and then perhaps try to find ‘meaning’ for ourselves in the present by some kind of analogy. Instead the Eunuch asked, ‘About whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?’ (Acts 8:34). ‘Meaning resides in the person of whom the text speaks, and our task is to come to know this person by understanding how the text speaks of him. This fundamental point is made by Christ himself, when he says, ‘You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life, yet it is they that witness to me’ (Jn 5:39). To emphasize the point, he says a few verses later, ‘If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me’ (Jn 5:46). Moses certainly wrote in the past, but the ‘meaning’ of his words is neither as a straightforward description of historical events in the past nor as having ‘meant’ something that we can now retrieve by reconstructing the past. Rather the ‘meaning’ of his words, once again, lies in how he speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ. Given this locus of the ‘meaning’ of scripture, we can now understand why for the authors of the writings of the New Testament, and those whose work resulted in these writings being collected together, the expression ‘the Word of God’ did not refer to scripture, as it is often assumed today, but to Jesus Christ himself and the gospel proclaiming him, the crucified and exalted one, as Lord.” (John Behr, THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST, pp 49-50)
And so we return again to John 5:39-40 and the original theme of this series that the Scriptures are a (hidden) treasure.
“’Search the Scriptures, because in them you think that you have life everlasting. And it is they that bear witness to me, yet you are not willing to come to me that you may have life everlasting’ … That is why Christ, in sending the Jews to the Scriptures, sent them, not merely to read them, but carefully search and ponder them. And so He did not say, ‘Read the Scriptures,’ but ‘Search the Scriptures.’ Indeed, it was because the texts concerning Him require much careful study (since he was foreshadowed in earlier times according to the needs of the people of that period) that He now bade them to dig out the meaning of the Scriptures with precision so as to be able to discover what lies hidden in their depths. Their meaning is not expressed superficially or set forth in their literal sense, but, like a treasure, lies buried at a great depth. And he who seeks for hidden things will not be able to find the object of his search if he does not seek carefully and painstakingly. “ (DAILY READINGS FORM THE WRITINGS OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, p 91)