DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF ST. JOHN, ARCHBISHOP OF SHANGHAI AND SAN FRANCISCO
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ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN WITNESS (USPS 412-260)
is published monthly by St. Nectarios American Orthodox Cathedral,
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Fr. Neketas S. Palassis, Editor Email: frneketas@stnectariospress.com
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JANUARY  2007, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1, (1568)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

1. NATIVITY ENCYCLICAL OF METROPOLITAN EPHRAIM OF BOSTON
2. SERMON BY ST. PHILARET OF NEW YORK.
3. AN AFFIRMATIVE ANSWER
4. PEARS FROM THE HOLY FATHERS
5. NEW ITEMS FROM THE BOOK CENTER


An old man one day received the grace of being able to see what passed, and he said, "I have seen a brother meditating in his cell and the demons standing outside the cell. While the brother was meditating they were not able to enter, but when he stopped meditating, then the demons entered the cell and strove with him."

Apophthegmata Patrum



1. THE HOLY ORTHODOX METROPOLIS OF BOSTON
His Eminence, Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston

NATIVITY ENCYCLICAL

To the Beloved Presbyters, Deacons, Monastics and Faithful Flock of our Metropolis

My beloved Orthodox Christians,
    When I was a young monk in the monastery, one of my obediences was chanting in the church services. Over the years, as I sought to learn more of the musical compositions that have come down to us through the centuries, the hymns that especially endeared themselves to me were the beautiful communion hymns of the Divine Liturgy. The communion hymns are the long melismatic anthems that are chanted while the clergy are receiving Holy Communion in the sanctuary, just before the communion of the faithful.
   
    Like other hymns of the Church, the communion hymns vary according to the day of the week, or the season of the year. During the two Sundays before the feast of our Saviour's Nativity in the flesh, we celebrate the saints of the Old Testament and also our Saviour's genealogy. The communion hymn that is appointed to be chanted in their honor is "Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; praise is meet for the upright." Like almost all communion hymns, this hymn is taken from the Psalms of the Prophet-King David. The melody for it was composed in the 1700's by Peter the Peloponnesian; it is a very compunctionate hymn that expresses an overwhelming nostalgia and longing for these heroes and saints of the Old Testament. Truly, who will not marvel when reading of the exploits of Abraham and the other Patriarchs, of Moses and the events in Egypt and at the Red Sea, the pillar of fire, the manna, the crossing of the Jordan River, the fall of Jericho, the feats of Samson, the Prophet Samuel, David and Goliath, the Prophets Elias and Elisseus, Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the Three Children in the fiery furnace, Ruth, Judith, Sarah, Rebecca, and the Maccabees?
    By his masterful composition, the composer of the communion hymn for these saints captures the esteem and yearning that we have for these outstanding and incredible heroes of the Faith; and yet, as magnificent as this hymn may be, it cannot compare to the triumph and joy expressed in the communion hymn composed for our Saviour's Nativity: "The Lord hath sent redemption unto His people!" This, too, is taken from the Book of Psalms.
    Indeed, the Lord has sent redemption to His people in the Incarnation and Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how marvelous the saints of the Old Testament were, they could not escape Satan's kingdom of death. Only with the arrival of the Liberator could these holy people of the Old Testament times find their freedom and redemption. Seeing our sorry plight, and the plight of the saints of all ages past, our Saviour in His ineffable love deigned to become like one of us so that He might snatch us from the grasp of the Evil One.
    In one of his talks to his monks, Saint Symeon the New Theologian, describing our Saviour's love for mankind when we were under the tyranny of the Devil, says the following:
Nearly all men reject the weak and the poor as objects of disgust: an earthly king cannot bear the sight of them, rulers turn away from them with revulsion and loathing, while the rich ignore them and pass them by when they meet them as though they did not exist; nobody thinks it desirable to associate with them. But God, Who is served by myriads of Heavenly hosts without number, Who "sustains all things by the word of His power" [Heb. 1:3], Whose majesty is beyond anyone's ability to endure, has not disdained to become the father, the friend, the brother of those rejected ones. He willed to become incarnate so that He might become "like unto us in all things except for sin" [Heb. 4:15] and free us, and make us to share in His glory and His kingdom. What stupendous riches of His great goodness! What an ineffable condescension on the part of our Master and our God!
(St. Symeon the New Theologian,
Discourse 2:4)

    No wonder, then, that the communion hymn for the feast of the Nativity of our Redeemer is so full of joy and triumph! Christ has proved to be our "father, and friend, and brother" in our time of need. He is truly "the Friend of man." This, indeed, is a cause for celebration and joy. "The Lord hath sent redemption unto His people!"
   
    To Him be glory and honour unto the ages of ages. Amen!

Christ is born! Give ye glory!

Your fervent suppliant unto God,
?Ephraim, Metropolitan of Boston
The Nativity of Christ, 2006
Protocol Number 2512

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2. A SERMON BY SAINT PHILARET OF NEW YORK
(No. 75 in the translated English series distributed by ROCA)
Preached on Tuesday, at the Vespers Service before the
Church Feast Day of the Icon of Our Lady of the Sign
Nov. 27 / Dec. 10, 1974

 
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

From ancient times, Russian Orthodox people habitually called their motherland, Holy Russia, The House of the Most Holy Mother of God". This name expressed, in itself first of all, a grateful memory of the Most Gracious Mother of Christ-God, who with her solicitude, love, and strength saved the Russian Land and the Russian People in difficult times throughout their history.
 
It is impossible to enumerate the miracles preformed by the Mother of God for us in Russia, during the many centuries of her existence. While turning the pages only of a civil history, not even of a church history, you will see there also, how the Mother of God miraculously saved and delivered her people from what seemed to be the most catastrophic situations which befell them. The Most Blessed Virgin Mary deigned to reveal miracle-working icons as the means of showing her kindness and graciousness, glorifying them through innumerable signs and miracles. There are many such icons in Russia. There are also icons which are relatively unknown, but which have many wonderful miraculous blessings associated with them.
         
Only Holy Mount Athos has probably as many miracle-working icons as we had in Mother Russia. One of the better known icons among them is the miraculous Image which is before us in this holy church with the Heavenly Queen's blessing. This is the "Kursk-Korennaya" icon of Our Lady of the Sign, miraculously found by the root of a tree from which it derives its name. This icon is very ancient, glorified by a great number of miracles. Every time, when bowing before her, while praying to the Mother of God, we must remember that from ancient times many generations of our forefathers prayed to her. Before this icon prayed Tsars and people of high stature, asking blessings and intercession from the Heavenly Queen. And now, by the ineffable graciousness of Our Lord and blessings to us of the Mother of God, we have that icon before us. Among the people still alive from the old generation, there are still some who remember how solemn, how magnificent and popular were the numerous processions in Russia when before this icon public prayers were celebrated, and the prayerful procession often went long distances.
         
And now, with modern means of transportation, the holy miracle-working Image flies around the world. Just yesterday it returned from a long journey to South America, where Our Lady wished to send Her Image and with it Her blessings.
 
Our Church Outside of Russia is, to a certain extent, lonely in the world, and even in the domain of Orthodoxy. We don't have many friends; but have many enemies. We have to remember that for those who consider themselves Orthodox Christians, but succumb to the contemporary spirit with all its poisonous, spiritually false seeds of modernism and Ecumenism, our Church is an Accuser, because all know that she preserves our inheritance from antiquity, from our holy antiquity, from the Apostles, Ecumenical Councils and holy Fathers, passed on by the Greek Orthodox Church to the Russian Church. All this, our Orthodox Church Outside of Russia treasures, and considers the preservation of this as one of its main tasks. And, of course, for everyone who forsakes this, without accusing him directly, she is, by her very existence and teachings, an accuser and a very dreadful accuser. Even the enemies of our Church Outside of Russia, desperately attempting to take away her right to a canonical existence, and those standing against her, in unofficial conversations admit that our Church is very powerful!
         
We however also know that many, many Orthodox Churches are obliged, or consider themselves obliged, to participate in church services with the Moscow hierarchy, which our Church never and under no circumstances will recognize as the actual, lawful representative and voice of the Russian captive and persecuted Church. These Local Churches, keeping communion with the Moscow hierarchy, are officially reproaching us that we are "schismatics and that we need to return to the "Mother Church"; but unofficially say that they understand perfectly well our truthfulness, but are unable to say this openly.
 
Let not your heart be troubled, children of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia! We call this miracle-working icon of the Mother of God, and through it the Most Pure Virgin, Odigitria, which means Guide. The Church Outside of Russia wanders; she wanders over the entire wide, wide world, and her Guide in her journeys is the Most Pure Virgin Mary and Her miracle-working image. She leads us, sinners and feeble ones. And you know where the path of every Christian and the entire Church should go it should go where directed by the holy Paschal canon: from death to life and from the earth to heaven. And along this very path goes before us, leading us, our. Guide, the Most Pure Virgin Mary, and under Her holy protection, Our Lord will preserve us to the end, within the bulwark of the Orthodox Church.

AMEN

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3. An Affirmative Answer to:
Should the Dead Sea Scrolls be Used to Modify the Masoretic Hebrew Old Testament?
By Charles D. Provan
CHRISTIAN NEWS, May 7, 2007
        Several weeks ago Pastor Otten sent an article to me about the Dead Sea Scrolls. This particular article asked the question of whether we should use the post WWII discoveries near the Dead Sea in order to modify our understanding of the text of the Old Testament? The "Fundamental Baptist Information Service" answers with a resounding “no”. I answer a definite "yes". Here are some of the reasons why:
        [It isn't often that I encounter an article like the above.] The article itself reminds me when I was a fundamentalist youth member at a local Baptist church, where we were taught such important doctrines of the Faith as "Women should never wear pants." "Movies are always forbidden." "A person should only read the King James Version (the so-called AV 1611)." In my church, I never once even heard anyone talk of anyone being "saved" except for the Baptists. "Saved" Lutherans or Presbyterians were not even mentioned. There were just us Baptists. I personally "walked the aisle" when I was about 12 years old. I hardly ever read the Bible (unless I was offered cash as an incentive!) And I had no interest in spiritual things. But I was "saved", don't you know, because of the extremely dangerous doctrine of "once saved always saved" repeated like a mantra to keep one from thinking too much about things like "good works" (of which I had mighty few indeed).
        In any case, the article is about how we should not use the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery to modify "the Masoretic Hebrew Old Testament". Now, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of manuscripts discovered by some Palestinians in the area of the Dead Sea. They had been kept in caves since around the time of AD70, when the area was overrun by Roman armies who conquered the Jews at the time: Here is the problem the Fundamental Baptists have with the Dead Sea Scrolls, hereafter DSS.
        The early Christians did not use the King James Version of the Bible. (Obviously, since it was translated in 1611). The early Christians used the version of the Scripture which was available to them, which was mainly the Greek Old Testament, called the Septuagint, or LXX. The term "LXX" refers to the story passed down that the translation was done by seventy (or seventy-two) well-qualified Jews who did the translation from Hebrew into Greek. The translation of the Old Testament was ordered by one of the successors of Alexander the Great who had conquered Egypt, and wanted a copy of the Bible for his library.
        The problem became this: there are differences (sometimes very serious differences) between the Greek Old Testament and the Old Testament of the Rabbinic Jews. To make matters worse, many Christians now suppose that since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, that the Hebrew Bible kept by the Rabbinic Jews is in fact the "original Hebrew". In fact, it is not the original Hebrew, and it is also not too old either.
        You see, the Rabbis had very particular orders concerning the copying of the Old Testament. Among their rules is the command that all old used copies of the OT are to be destroyed. This command has resulted in a paucity of OT manuscripts being available for study. In fact, the oldest complete copy of the Old Testament dates to about 1100 AD, which makes the oldest complete Rabbinic text to be about 1000 years old. The copies of the Greek Old Testament are very much older than that. And the New Testament has many quotes of the OT, which show what the OT text was like some 2000 years ago.
        Here is an example of the problems which have resulted. In the book of Acts, Stephen the Deacon, soon to be martyred, recounted the history of Israel to the Jews about to kill him. Here is what he said to them: "On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph's family. After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all" (Acts 7:13-14). Note carefully that "seventy-five" members of Jacob's family ended up in Egypt. Now look at the King James Version: Genesis 46:27
        "And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten." Threescore and ten is seventy. The KJV again states the number in Exodus 1:5 "And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already."
        So Steven the Martyr says there were seventy-five members of Jacob's family which ended up in Egypt, but the King James Version says seventy (in two places). What heightens the issue is that Acts 7:55 says that Steven was filled with the Holy Spirit when he gave his speech to the Jews.
        Making the debate even more interesting is that the Greek OT has the following: seventy-five. Here is the text of the LXX of Exodus 1:5, "But Joseph was in Egypt. And all the souls born of Jacob were seventy-five."
        At this point, I maintain that a sober examination of the subject will make it pretty much mandatory that a Christian, by faith, has to conclude that the correct number is seventy-five, as given by Steven while he was filled with the Holy Spirit. When a Christian realizes this, it is apparent that the Greek Old Testament represents the true text of the Bible in the particular portion that lists the seventy-five descendants of Jacob. It is also apparent that the King James Version translators made a mistake when they viewed the Rabbinic Text of Exodus 1:5 as "the Hebrew original". This is "by faith", mind.
        And so, what do the Dead Sea Scrolls have to do with this issue? Just this: the oldest text of the Old Testament in Hebrew of Exodus 1:5, found in the collection of manuscripts near the Dead Sea, has the number 75. So now, the oldest version of the OT in Hebrew has the same number that Steven the Martyr had in his speech.
        The truth is that in quite a few incidents, the same thing happens. What the New Testament says is a valid Old Testament text, and the Rabbinic Text contradicts, is now proven to be the most ancient version of the text in Hebrew. Which just happens to fit very well indeed with the teachings of Christianity.
        Our examination of the Fundamentalist Article on the Dead Sea Scrolls
        The article under examination has several goofy points, the most patent of which I am actually embarrassed to bring up. Here is the quote: "Most of the scrolls are in Hebrew, but about 25% are in Arabic and a few are in Greek." In all of the years I have read about the Dead Sea Scrolls, I have never once read about any manuscripts being found in Arabic, let alone "25%". What does this show us? That once again fundamentalists are seen to be so concerned with teaching their silly dogmas, that they pay no attention at all to the absurdities they mention, or how ridiculous they look.
        A few lines after the "25% Arabic" mistake, we are treated to absurdities about the Essenes, the 'supposed religious 'group which transcribed the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were mostly celibate, didn't marry, and thought that females were greedy. Oh my. Some held an extreme version of the sovereignty of God which led to fatalism. And to top it off, the Essenes looked for three Messiahs, not the one that we know of, namely Jesus.
        In the first place, there are some who have examined the DSS who have concluded that the copiers of the manuscripts were not Essenes. There is no tag on the manuscripts which says, "Property of the Essenes". Secondly, if it was written by Essenes, how does this prove the manuscripts are faulty or wrong? I have known a lot of  kook Baptists over the years, but this does not mean that they would on purpose change a text of the Bible or he about it; it just means that their interpretations are wrong.”
        Dealing with Isaiah, the author shows his split view of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Since the DSS manuscripts of Isaiah are very close to the Rabbinic Hebrew texts used by the KJV, this is a proof of the accuracy of the KJV. But where the DSS texts of other passages are different than the KJV, [the Baptist author says], “Who cares anyway? The DSS are obviously wrong.” This reasoning, friends, is quite frankly nuts.
        Our author moves on to some Baptist doctrines in his next "Answer" section. The author mentions that something called '"The doctrine of preservation" "tells us that the Dead Sea Scrolls should not be used to correct the Masoretic Hebrew Old Testament." So this amazing Fundamentalist Baptist doctrine says that the Masoretic Text cannot be "corrected". This is absurd on the face of it, since the Rabbis themselves wrote that they deliberately changed some passages. Among the most definite is Judges 18:30, where the Rabbis admit they changed the text from Moses to Manasseh in order to protect Moses! So, never fear, the supposed "doctrine of preservation" will prove that the Rabbis are correct, even where they say they aren't.
        Notice also the inclusion of this revealing sentence about the DSS: "They were not used by the Albigensians.." To which we say, "So?" The Albigensians were actually a group of heretics killed by the Catholics in the Middle Ages, so they have goofily become heroes to some modern day extreme Baptists, who view them as Martyrs. In reality, they were gnostics who taught some very evil doctrines. Just so the readers will know, I am not in favor of executing heretics, whether Albigensians or Fundamentalists either, so I would like to go on record as disagreeing with the Roman Catholic Crusade against the Albigensians.
        Notice that our Fundamentalist friend mentions that the great missionaries, along with the Hussites and Anabaptists and others, also did not know about the Dead Sea Scrolls, to which we again say, "So?' In a famous story in the OT about King Josiah (the last good king of Judah), he did not even have the Law of Moses at all, but that did not stop him from wanting to see the evidence for it when it was accidentally found. For this story, see II Kings 22:8-13. So, if someone makes a great discovery of Hebrew texts which are over 2000 years old (thus over 1000 years older than the texts of the Rabbis) wouldn't that be of great interest and value? Of course.
        The author of the Fundamentalist article goes on to more absurdity, which shows the incorrectness of his views. Read this next sentence. The author has "full confidence in the Masoretic (Traditional) Hebrew text which was preserved by the divinely appointed Old Testament priesthood and the scribes and scholars grouped around it." Think about this. Our Fundamentalist, who thinks that 25% of the Dead Sea Scrolls are Arabic, and who thinks that the Albigensian Heretics are his Spiritual Heroes, now adds that the Masoretic Text behind the King James Version has been preserved by divinely appointed Old Testament priests and their associates. This is a kook theory if I have ever heard one. The truth is that there are no more levitical priests, because there haven't been genealogy records since the Jewish War of AD 65-70! The truth is that the Rabbis themselves admit changing the text of the Masoretic Text. The truth is that there are various manuscripts of the Masoretic Text which disagree with each other.
        We will now give an example of this. Examine Psalm 145, which is called an acrostic Psalm. That is, the Psalm is an Alphabetic Psalm; each verse of this Psalm in Hebrew begins with a letter in the Hebrew alphabet, in order. There is a problem with Psalm 145 which has been noted for many years, and the problem is that one of the Hebrew letters (the letter "N") is missing. There is no verse which starts with the Hebrew letter "N'. At the same time, it was noted that the Greek Book of Psalms has an extra verse where the missing letter would be. This verse, when "reverse translated" back into Hebrew, starts with the letter "N' in Hebrew. Psalm 145 was among the Psalms discovered in the DSS, and lo and behold, the manuscript contains the missing verse in Hebrew. It begins with the letter "N', and is in the right place. When this was discovered, another search of the Masoretic collection was made, and amazingly, they found that one Masoretic manuscript has the same verse in Hebrew that was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Because of these facts, mostly all modern versions of Psalm 145 list the missing verse in the text. The missing verse in the Greek is 'The Lord is faithful in His words, and holy in all His works." The Hebrew of the DSS is rendered, "God is faithful in His words, and gracious in all His deeds." So, should the DSS be used to correct the MT? Absolutely.
        So, there is no absolute Masoretic Text. And the King James translators used the wrong Masoretic text when they translated Psalm 145. Perhaps our Fundamentalist writer can come up with something to counteract our argument here, but we sure can't.
        There are other passages which demonstrate that the King James Version cannot be viewed as some sort of infallible text. In fact, it is just stupid to even say so. For example, when Fundamentalist Baptists refer to their using the AV1611, I have never seen a case where this was actually true. Why? Because the original King James included the 14 books of the Apocrypha, and actually called the Apocrypha "Scripture". Do today's Fundamentalist Baptists use the original AV1611? We doubt it. We bet most of them have never even seen a copy, one with the books of Tobit or Ecclesiasticus included. So today's Fundamentalists do not use the real King James, and they certainly wouldn't defend it if they saw one.
        We challenge our opponent to answer our article and would be most interested in having his explain Psalm 145:13 or the other issues we have mentioned.
        Editor: William Arndt, author of Does the Bible Contradict Itself noted that his article in the February, 1924, Concordia Theological Monthly observes that the apparent discrepancy between Genesis 46:27 and Acts 7:14 vanishes when the Septuagint is compared. Such great Bible scholars as Arndt and Beck did not hesitate to make use of the Septuagint. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that they were correct. Beck took over Arndt's graduate school classes in textual criticism at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, when Arndt died. What a tragedy that those who now control which translation the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod uses in its publications, including its new hymnal, insist on using the works of Reformed, liberal and evangelical scholars instead of that of William Beck. CPH even refuses to study the evidence. Anything Christian News publishes, including articles by Provan, are simply ignored.
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4. PEARLS FROM THE HOLY FATHERS

        
We regard paradise as our country -- we already begin to consider the patriarchs as our parents: why do we not hasten and run, that we may behold our country, that we may greet our parents? There a great number of our dear ones is awaiting us, and a dense crowd of parents, brothers, children, is longing for us, already assured of their own safety, and still solicitous for our salvation. To attain to their presence and their embrace, what a gladness both for them and for us in common! What a pleasure is there in the heavenly kingdom, without fear of death; and how lofty and perpetual a happiness with eternity of living!
                                                St. Cyprian

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5. NEW ITEMS FROM THE BOOK CENTER

T_acc4b.jpgS_acc5.jpgANCIENT CHRISTIAN COMMENTARY ON SCRIPTURE Edited by Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall. A series of Patristic Commentaries on the Old and New Testament. This series gives us the commentaries of the Church Fathers on the Holy Scriptures. It faithfully presents the writings of the Fathers (and early ecclesiastical writers) on the various scriptural passages. Cloth  $40.00 each Our price per volume: e$35.00 
THREE NEW VOLUMES AVAILABLE:   (ACC5) ACTS;  (ACC4A)  GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN, CH. 1-10);  (ACC4B) GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN, CH. 11-21.







T_lbs.jpg(LBS) LIVES OF THE BULGARIAN SAINTS, trans. by Svetoslav Piperov. A beautiful volume of slightly abridged lives of the saints of Bulgaria, arranged chronologically through the church year. A monochrome icon and Troparion is included for most of the lives.  751pp.  Hard Cover  e$50.00  There are a few copies with slightly damaged covers available at a discount. Please phone for details.











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