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Friday, July 25, 2008

The Regula Fidei

"Tradition was in the early church, first of all, a hermeneutical principle and method. Scripture could be rightly and fully understood and assessed only in the light and in the context of the living apostolic tradition, which was an integral factor of Christian existence.
This was so, of course, not because tradition could add anything to what has been manifested in theScripture, but because it provided that living context, the comprehensive perspective, in which alone the true intention and the total design of the Holy Writ, of divine revelation itself, could be detected and grasped. The truth was, according to Irenaeus, a "well-grounded system," a corpus, a "harmonious melody." This harmony could be grasped only by the insight of faith. Indeed, tradition was not just a transmission of inherited doctrine in a Judiac manner, but continuous life in the truth.
It was not a fixed core or complex of binding propositions, but an insight into the meaning and impact of revelatory events, of the revelation of the God who acts. And this was determinative in the field of biblical exegesis. George Prestige has well put it: "The voice of the Bible could be plainly heard only if its text were interpreted broadly and rationally, in accordance with the apostolic creed and the evidence of the historical practice of Christendom. It was the heretics that relied on isolated texts, and the Catholics who paid more attention on the whole to scriptural principles."
Summarizing her careful analysis of the use of tradition in the early church, Ellen Flesseman-van Leer has written: "Scripture without interpretation is not Scripture at all; the moment it is used and becomes alive it is always interpreted Scripture," which is disclosed in the regula fidei. Thus this regula becomes, as it were, the controlling factor in the exegesis. "Real interpretation ofScripture is church preaching, is tradition."[1]

[1] pages 103-104 by George Florovsky, edited by Daniel B. Clendenin, in the book Eastern Orthodoc Theology: A contemporary reader


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