Any possible experience of the biblical text is established in the quality of Church life, wherefrom one learns even that the Bible exists. Our relation to everything, with most crucial and fundamental being the personal or potentially personal relationships, determines in the most essential dimensions how we read the Bible. In the first of John’s epistles (4, 20) this primacy is obvious: ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν ὃν ἑώρακε, τὸν Θεὸν ὃν οὐχ ἑώρακε πῶς δύναται ἀγαπᾶν; Something similar happens in the study of the biblical text — the quality of personal life determines the quality of the interpretation of the text, beyond what can be drawn by a disciplined intellect alone.
The fundamental inferiority of so called ‘critical’ editions, the difference between the text that the Orthodox Churches recognize as genuine, without even official proclamations, and the texts various scholars try to establish under this pompous term, as if the life and the tradition of the Church were uncritical, becomes apparent in the same way. Those who are supposed to care the most, ‘critical’ scholars, suffer a surprising carelessness. Is a method established in classical philology the right or the best one when we try to determine the biblical text?
In Platonic dialogues, for example, a ‘critical’ edition — even if research results sometime in a single and certain text — may have a priority, since Plato alone is the criterion of the genuineness of the text. If the criterion of authenticity lies in Church life, because the Church decided even the identity of the authors, only the Church can really discern the valid text, in a judgment that extends in centuries of a whole tradition of collective understanding.