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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible A richly illustrated account of the story of the Bible written by leading scholars.

The Bible in the Eastern Churches

George Bebawi

It is important to remember the two communities of eastern Christianity, the Chalcedonian and the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox churches. Greek, Russian, Romanian, Coptic, Syrian, Indian, Armenian, and Ethiopian churches form the bulk of eastern Christians. This is not the place to discuss the old Christological debate, which destroyed the Eastern Communion and has remained a living problem since the fifth century. Christology is the main dividing line between the two bodies.

Biblical studies and commentaries in Greek, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, and Slavonic have existed from the days of the great Fathers of the church through the Middle Ages and up to the present day. The Fathers, since Origen of Alexandria wrote his commentaries, drew on the techniques of the Greek ‘Grammaticus’, which was employed in Alexandria to establish and explain classical works of the great writers. Thus the aim to establish a good reading of the text by comparing textual variations was introduced as early as the beginning of the third century. The geography of Palestine and the etymology of words were used to give a more accurate meaning of words and names. This has continued throughout the history of both eastern churches.

It is beyond the scope of this chapter to provide the reader with a summary of a heritage which stretches over 1,400 years or even to summarize the various schools of theology which presuppose the various ways of understanding the Bible in the eastern context. What concerns us here are the basic features, which may be regarded as common among the biblical scholars of the eastern churches.

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