Our Fathers’ Bible

I’ve just noticed the beginning of Proverbs 30, where it seems Agur son of Jakeh has been reading Job 38-42.

I am fascinated when I can see how the authors of scripture meditated on the same scriptures we read today. In Jeremiah 17:5-8, we hear Jeremiah’s words after a lifetime of reading or singing Psalm 1. In the second chapter of Jonah, out of the depths of Hades, the prophet is depicted singing lines from Psalm 87 – words which the Church uses to speak of Christ’s burial and arrival in Hades.

Josiah hears the Law
“I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.”

In 2 Kings 22, when the long-forgotten scroll of the Torah is found in the disused temple at Jerusalem, and Deuteronomy is read aloud for the first time in generations, King Josiah is struck to the heart by hearing Moses’ law.

There isn’t any great chasm fixed between “Bible Times” and today. Lovers of God have been singing and studying and wrestling with these same passages since the very earliest scriptural passages were recorded.

In your daily reading from Psalms or the Pentateuch, you’re reading the same Bible that the prophets and the Lord himself studied.

So it makes sense that the Orthodox prayer before reading scripture is plural. We are not alone as we open the Bible; the saints of God who were formed by reading, singing, and meditating on these words are with us, “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), praying that we will be filled with light as we read the words that shaped who they are:

Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind, with the pure light of thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of thy gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of thy blessed commandments, so that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto thee. For thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto thee we ascribe glory, together with thy Father who is from everlasting, and thine all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Young Bible reader