Theophany (2016)

OSBIn the notes from The Orthodox Study Bible, we learn about the Feast of Theophany.

“The word ‘theophany‘ derives from the Greek words theos (‘God’), and phainesthai (‘to show forth, appear’). Hence, a theophany is an appearance or manifestation of God. While types of Christ in the Old Testament prefigure His coming in the flesh, theophanies are recognized by the Church as being actual appearances of the pre-incarnate Son and Word of God. How this happens remains a mystery. But because the Son of God took on human nature in the fullness of time, each theophany directly prefigures Christ’s Incarnation. St. John of Damascus wrote, ‘No one saw the divine nature, but rather the image and figure of what was yet to come. For the invisible Son and Word of God was to become truly Man.’

THREE THEOPHANIES OF CHRIST     An often cited theophany of Christ occurs in the visit of the ‘three men’ to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18:1–16: ‘Then God appeared to him at the oak of Mamre’ (v. 1). Though three men are there, Abraham addresses them in the singular, ‘Lord.’ He responds in the singular (vv. 9–15). As St. Ephraim the Syrian says, ‘Therefore the Lord . . . now appeared to Abraham clearly in one of the three.’ The three are generally considered to be Christ the Lord, along with two attending angels. At Genesis 32:25–31, Christ is the ‘man’ who wrestles with Jacob, after which Jacob says, ‘I saw God face to face’ (v. 30). St. Cyril of Jerusalem asks the Jews concerning these theophanies to Abraham and Jacob, ‘What strange thing do we announce in saying that God was made Man, when you yourselves say that Abraham received the Lord as a guest? What strange thing do we announce, when Jacob says, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’? The Lord, who ate with Abraham, also ate with us.’ In the Book of Daniel, a heathen king bears witness to another theophany of Christ. When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon peers into the fiery furnace, upon seeing a ‘fourth man’ he exclaims, ‘The vision of the fourth is like the Son of God’ (Dan 3:92).

OTHER APPEARANCES OF GOD     At times Christ appears as ‘the Angel of the Lord’ or ‘the Angel of God.’ At Exodus 3:1—4:17, ‘the Angel of the Lord’ appears to Moses in the burning bush and identifies Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ex 3:6, 15, 16; 4:5). He also says that His name is ‘I AM HE WHO IS’ (Ex 3:14), which in Greek is represented by the three letters placed around Christ’s head in the holy icons. St. Ambrose of Milan observes, ‘Christ therefore is, and always is; for He who is, always is. And Christ always is, of whom Moses says, “He that is has sent me.”’”  (Kindle Loc. 65449-71)


God’s Sapience and Science

Some believers in God, especially those who read Genesis 1-3 literally, find their faith threatened by the discoveries and theories of science (especially evolution and genetics). I continue to believe in the aphorism that “truth is truth” and so we have nothing to fear from the discoveries of science.   But then I’m also not a biblical literalist when it comes to Genesis 1-3.   I find God does provide us a way to understand scientific truth and in fact all knowledge in the book known as the  WISDOM OF SOLOMON.

The Wisdom of Solomon is found in those Christian Bibles based in the Septuagint (for example, THE ORTHODOX STUDY BIBLE).  The Septuagint is the Greek language version of the Jewish Scriptures (which the Jews themselves had translated into the Greek a couple hundred years before the birth of Jesus).

The Septuagint is the version of Jewish Scriptures most often quoted and read by the New Testament and Post-Apostolic writers, and is the official version of the Old Testament accepted by the Orthodox Church.   In this scripture,  we find the Wisdom of God which says scientific knowledge too is given to us by the Lord.   Truth and knowledge, especially that of creation are not opposed to the Truth of God’s revelation – they are the same Truth!

Ever since the creation of the world God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.  (Romans 1:20)

It is not only scientific knowledge which has been granted to us from God, even the skills, arts and craftsmanship which humans have perfected are seen in the Scriptures as coming from God as well!  Proverbs 6:6-10 tells us we can even learn wisdom from the tiny ant.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:15-21

May God grant me to speak according to His purpose,

and to have thoughts worthy of what I have received;

Christ the Wisdom of God

for he is the guide even of wisdom

and the corrector of the wise.

Wisdom and Lady Justice

For both we and our words are in his hand,

as are all understanding and skill in crafts.

Stone Carver Craftsman

For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists,

to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements;

Stalactites and Stalagmites

the beginning and end and middle of times,

the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons,

the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars,

the natures of animals and the tempers of wild animals,

the force of the winds and the thoughts of human beings,

the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots;

And to know both what is hidden and what is manifest,

For Wisdom the artisan of all things taught me.

For a list of and links to other photo-blogs I’ve done go to My Photo Blogs.

PDF: Reading the Bible Means Opening a Treasury (1 & 2)

I was asked if I could put my current blog series on reading Scripture as a PDF document.

The series began with  the blog Reading the Bible means Opening a Treasury.

The series to date is now available in two PDF file documents:

Part 1:   Reading the Bible Means Opening a Treasury (PDF)


Part 2:    Why read the bible? (PDF)

Part 3 will be made available as a PDF when I finish the blog series.

In Defense of the Septuagint

The Prophet Moses
The Prophet Moses

As is well known historically,  somewhere about 200 years before the time of Christ the Jews translated their Scriptures into the Greek language.  This translation was called the Septuagint  (normally abbreviated as LXX).     It was a well respected document throughout the ancient world including among the Jews themselves, especially among those who commonly used Greek as their language of communication.   In fact the Scriptures were translated into Greek to make them more accessible to the rest of the world which used Greek as the universal language of the educated people.  Many Jewish scholars themselves relied on the Septuagint in their own writings. 

About 100 years or so after the time of Christ, the Jewish rabbis began reconsidering the acceptability of the Septuagint for use by Jews.  This seems in part to have occurred because of the Christian reliance on the Septuagint for their own claims about Jesus being the Messiah and fulfilling Old Testament prophecies.

After the Protestant Reformation, Protestant scholars in an effort to discredit the Roman Catholic Church abandoned reliance on the Septuagint and began using only Jewish versions of their Scriptures for translating the scriptures into modern languages.  The Masoretic Text which became the official version of the Jewish Scriptures was finalized between the 7th-10th Centuries AD, and thus is not an older text than the Septuagint but a more recent text.  The Masoretic text does correspond closely to Hebrew/Aramaic texts from the 2nd Century AD but differs at points from the Septuagint, sometimes significantly.

Modern biblical scholars do consult the Septuagint even when they rely on the Masoretic Text because the Septuagint is more ancient than the Masoretic Text and because the Septuagint was translated from a more ancient Hebrew/Aramaic text and so allows us to know how Jewish scholars 200 years before Christ were interpreting and understanding their own scriptures.  The Septuagint was not translated by Christians as Christianity did not exist at that time, so the Christians had no influence over the translation into Greek of the Jewish scriptures.  It did happen however that the Christians found the Septuagint to be both a solid basis for Christian thinking and rather useful in polemics against the Jews of later Centuries.

Since the time of the Reformation some Protestant biblical readers have distrusted the Septuagint and don’t accept it as a legitimate bible for Christians to read.   Some feel it is too “Roman Catholic.”   Others think it an unreliable translation or interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures, even though it was done by the Jews themselves and honored

Old Testament Patriarchs
Old Testament Patriarchs

by the Jews at the time of Christ.  Additionally, many scholars feel that the New Testament authors were very reliant on the Septuagint as demonstrated by their frequently using the Septuagint when quoting the Old Testament.

As I was reading Robert Charles Hill’s translation of  ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM’S COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS Vol. 2   (pp 343-344), I came across two footnotes of his that actually lend credence to the importance of the Septuagint (LXX) for our knowledge of the Old Testament.   Both of these footnotes were in regard to Psalm 145.

“…though our (Masoretic) Hebrew text has one verse (13) missing, which the LXX supplies, an inclusion confirmed by the Hebrew manuscripts discovered at the Dead Sea.”

“This is the verse occurring in the LXX and a Hebrew ms found at Qumran; it is not in the Masoretic Hebrew text of this alphabetic psalm at the point where we would expect a verse beginning with the letter nun….”

 I have read various arguments about the reliability of the Septuagint version of the Jewish scriptures and arguments for why Protestant Scholars prefer the Masoretic Text when doing translation of the Old Testament.   But the Septuagint which is used officially by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox has shown itself to be a good window OSBinto the ancient Jewish (Pre-Masoretic) Scriptures.    Some have argued that translators in the ancient world were more likely to eliminate parts of texts (accidentally or purposefully) than to add to them.  At least in the two instances Hill mentions regarding the Psalms, the Septuagint may be relying on a more ancient text of the Hebrew Scriptures than the Masoretic Text does and thus gives us a better glimpse into the sacred writings of ancient Israel.   The Septuagint preserved something the Masoretic text lost.

THE ORTHODOX STUDY BIBLE  itself bases its translation of the Old Testament scriptures on the Septuagint unlike Protestant versions of the Bible.   The OSB thus follows the ancient Christian and traditionally historic version of the Scriptures which was commonly relied on by the first Christians themselves.   This is not to say that common English versions of the bible are wrong, they simply follow Protestant principles in their translations of the Old Testament and thus have a less complete version of the Old Covenant scriptures.