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The Holy Gospel: A Byzantine Perspective John S. Custer

The Holy Gospel: A Byzantine Perspective

John S. Custer

Published 2004
ISBN :
450 pages
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 About the Book 

Foreword:This book seeks to encourage members of the Byzantine Churches to explore the Gospels. It may be used as preparation for Gospel study or as a sort of commentary to be consulted while reading through the Gospels. It cannot substitute forMoreForeword:This book seeks to encourage members of the Byzantine Churches to explore the Gospels. It may be used as preparation for Gospel study or as a sort of commentary to be consulted while reading through the Gospels. It cannot substitute for direct contact with the sacred books themselves.Arranging the material has involved difficult choices. Much that might have been said has been omitted and not every Gospel passage has been studied here. Two introductory chapters address basic questions that are likely to arise in any study of the Gospels. Next, the three-year public ministry of our Lord is presented primarily from the viewpoint of St Matthew, although attention has been paid to important variations in the Gospels of St Mark and St Luke. A brief chapter treats certain highlights of Lukes Gospel, especially passages that are important for the Byzantine liturgical year. Our Lords passion is then presented in the same manner: based on Matthew with attention to details in Mark and Luke.The Gospel according to St John is treated in its own section, comprising three chapters. Here we have focused on the uniquely Johannine material and on passages highlighted in the liturgical tradition of the Byzantine Churches.Our study of texts relating to the Resurrection is based on the eleven Gospels read in a cycle at Sunday Matins throughout the year. The accounts of Jesus conception, His birth and His childhood are presented next. While this arrangement is totally unchronological, it does make sense theologically. The Infancy Narratives are the product of mature reflection on the Old Testament and insist on Jesus divinity more than any other section of the Gospels. They are easier to explain and to understand after reading the rest of the Gospel testimony about Jesus.The Byzantine perspective of this book consists of two particular interests. On the one hand, our emphases have been guided by the Byzantine lectionary and the liturgical year. On the other, we have consistently looked to the Greek Fathers as guides in our interpretation of individual passages.Each chapter could serve as the basis for several personal or group study sessions. In particular, the chapters on the Infancy Narratives, the Resurrection Gospels, and the Synoptic or Johannine Passion Narratives could provide material for a series of guided Gospel study sessions corresponding to St Philips Fast, the Paschal season or the Great Fast.Every attempt has been made to keep the material presented here accessible to the average adult Christian. Tangential information and more scholarly issues have been relegated to footnotes. Many references to the Fathers are still unavailable in English.The study of the Gospels raises a host of literary, historical and theological questions for which there are no simple answers. The two introductory chapters attempt to provide enough background to give a study-group leader some orientation and confidence. Individual readers will choose for themselves whether to ignore these issues entirely or to seek more detailed presentations from reliable scholarship.The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is the text quoted throughout this book. The numbering of psalms follows the RSV practice except where specifically referring to psalms in liturgical usage. Discussion of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic words has been kept to an absolute minimum. It cannot be entirely avoided. Occasionally, original translations have been made to bring out a particular nuance. Liturgical texts are either original translations or the work of the Inter-eparchial Liturgical Commission of the Metropolia (Pittsburgh, Byzantine Seminary Press, l965).The author of this guide was frequently surprised, amazed, consoled, and convicted while studying the Gospel texts presented here. There is no substitute for a personal contact with the Gospels themselves. They are inexhaustible. They comprise the primary icon of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are the fruit of the Holy Spirits inspiration and the treasury of apostolic memories. It is in the service of that contact and with hopes for surprise, amazement, consolation and conviction that this small guide to the Gospels is offered.