During a debate between a Baptist minister and an Orthodox priest, I received the following question:
Mr. Filat, you said that you are an historian so I have a question for you. For example, Homer wrote about the Trojan war a couple of hundred years after the event and nobody questions the validity of his story so why do you reject, or at least do not accept, the writings of the apostles’ disciples who were taught in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries?
If you have ever read Homer’s the Iliad or the Odyssey then I am sure that you have questioned the validity of the entire story. As a modern man and especially as a Christian, I am sure that you cannot accept the stories of gods in Greek mythology as truth. We know from the Holy Scriptures that all of the Greek mythology does not reflect reality, instead they are pagan inventions. However, archaeologists believe that it was a real event that inspired Homer to write his two masterpieces of ancient Greek literature, and thus began the search to discover ancient Troy. Based on these two ideas, we can conclude that Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey contain some truth as well as much imagination. Archaeologists have had to distinguish the objective elements from the subjective elements.
Now concerning the direct and indirect writings of the apostles, I do not understand why you accuse me of not accepting these writings. I accept the writings according to their recognized authenticity, that is, that the writings are proven to be written by the apostles. From many different discussions with Orthodox priests as well as seminary students who study at the theological seminary for Orthodox priests, I have concluded that I have a good library of the early apostles as well as the church fathers which many of these priests and seminary students would like to acquire someday. It has taken much effort and many years to attain this library. I have also learned through these discussions with the Orthodox clergy that I have studied more of the early church writings than many of them have done.
There are things in the early church writings that I cannot accept. I cannot accept the teachings that directly contradict the doctrinal writings of the 66 canonical books of the Bible. By the way, the word “canon” means “measuring standard”. The canonical writings of the Old Testament and New Testament make up the standard for the Christian faith. All others writings must be measured by the standard of the 66 canonical books. When there is a contradiction in the early church writings, a teaching that contradicts in some way the Holy Bible, then we must give priority to the Bible and not the writings of man. This is what the canon teaches us:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness ; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3)
The duty of all the disciples of Jesus Christ throughout the ages is to hold to the standard of sound truth as revealed in the Bible. We must hold to the teachings that were delivered to us by Jesus Christ, exactly as they are written in the pages of the Bible. Thank God that He transmitted His teachings directly to us via the Words of the Bible. Everything that matches up to the writings of the Bible can be accepted. Once somethings contradicts the sound doctrine of the Bible, of the teachings of Jesus Christ then priority must be given to the Scriptures. May the Lord help us.