The Book Full of Hints

The Bible is complete. But the sacred history is not yet completed. The Biblical canon itself includes a prophetical Book of Revelation. There is the Kingdom to come, the ultimate consummation, and therefore there are prophecies in the New Testament as well. The whole being of the Church is in a sense prophetical. Yet, the future has a different meaning post Christum natum. The tension between present and future has in the Church of Christ another sense and character than it had under the old dispensation. For Christ is no more in the future only, but also in the past, and therefore in the present also. This eschatological perspective is of basic importance for the right understanding of the Scriptures. All hermeneutical “principles” and “rules” should be re-thought and re-examined in this eschatological perspective. There are two major dangers to be avoided. On the one hand, no strict analogy can be established between the two Testaments, their “covenantal situations” being profoundly different: they are related as “the figure” and “the truth.” It was a traditional idea of patristic exegesis that the Word of God was revealing himself continuously, and in divers manners, throughout the whole of the Old Testament. Yet all these theophanies of old should never be put on the same level or in the same dimension as the incarnation of the Word, lest the crucial event of redemption is dissolved into an allegorical shadow. A “type” is no more than a “shadow” or image. In the New Testament we have the very fact. The New Testament therefore is more than a mere “figure” of the Kingdom to come. It is essentially the realm of accomplishment. On the other hand, it is premature to speak of a “realized eschatology,” simply because the very eschaton is not yet realized: sacred history has not yet been closed. One may prefer the phrase: “the inaugurated eschatology.” It renders accurately the Biblical diagnosis—the crucial point of the revelation is already in the past. “The ultimate” (or “the new”) had already entered history, although the final stage is not yet attained. We are no more in the world of signs only, but already in the world of reality, yet under the sign of the Cross. The Kingdom has been already inaugurated, but not yet fulfilled. The fixed canon of Scripture itself symbolizes an accomplishment. The Bible is closed just because the Word of God has been incarnate. Our ultimate term of reference is now not a book—not only as a record of the past, but also as a prophetical book, full of hints, pointing to the future, to the very end.

Fr Georges Florovsky. Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Nordland Publishing, 1972), 35–36

4 Replies to “The Book Full of Hints”

  1. This is a very interesting quote. One thing that struck me was the pervading sense of mystery which suggests to me that the author has realized, to the extent humanly possible, the depth and breadth of his subject matter. Very interesting.

  2. Yes, Fr Florovsky certainly “gets it”! It’s a real shame that the volumes of his Collected Works are so hard to come by. He and Vladimir Lossky are certainly the best of modern Orthodox writers springing from the Russian Exile period in Paris. They encountered no little bit of resistance to their criticisms of western philosophico-religious infiltration into especially Russian Orthodoxy. They were, the two of them, I think, primarily responsible for the renaissance of Orthodox Theology in the early twentieth century, turning the discussion back to patristics from polemics, pushing for a return to the worldview of the Apostles, an approach that I am entirely in sympathy with, as you may have noticed.

  3. Yes, Macrina, that site does make me wonder. They’re not the full text of the books, but very large excerpts. I don’t know what the state of the copyright is with Florovsky’s Collected Works, though, as Nordland Publishing, the copyright holder for those books, appears to be defunct, which is a shame. They had a great catalogue of Russian Orthodox theology in English. But, if the copyright holder doesn’t (or can’t) complain, the works can remain online. That’s the law, though it’s skating on thin ice, ethically. And for something as important as Fr Florovsky’s writing, I would think that the copyright holders are not so inimical to having them posted.

    It would be great to obtain permission for someone (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, for example) to reprint all the volumes. These books are so good, and so in demand, that the prices for used copies are listed at hundreds of dollars when any copies actually do appear, which in itself is rare. If Nordland were still publishing, they’d be able to make a real bundle of money on these volumes, particularly if they put them out in paperback, or combined them into larger volumes, perhaps retaining the original pagination. The Nordland Collected Works are all quite slim hardback volumes, most not even 200 pages, which is really something of a waste. They could easily be combined into three or four larger hardbacks. Or they’d make perfect individual paperbacks. Either way, I’m going to look into that some more.

    One thing that I may set aside all or part of my Winter Reading List for is a detailed, close reading of Florovsky’s Bible, Church, Tradition in order to formulate an outline of the program of implementing a return to patristic exegesis in combination with certain modern methods of Biblical exegesis that Fr Florovsky advocated, something that you mentioned is of interest to the both of us. In that line, I’d then implement it in my studies and present the findings here, certainly, and perhaps elsewhere, as well. I read it too quickly when I first got the book, so I need to go back and give it the attention it deserves. Virtually every paragraph is profound, counter-cultural in several senses, and deeply, richly Orthodox in its foundations. This book is rich, fine meat. And it calls for ingestion in small bites, with much rumination and savoring.

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