The word “orthodox” is a combination of two Greek words: orthos, which means “correct”, “true” or “right”, and doxa, which means “think” or “believe”, or “glory”, “glorification” – thus “worship”. So, “orthodox” means 1) “true belief”, and 2) “correct worship”.
The Orthodox faith has been handed down from the original disciples, the twelve who followed Christ and who were sent out as apostles by Him.
At first, the early Christians had no “Bible”. All the early Christians had was the body of teachings from Christ, and the tenets of the older Jewish faith. Christ chose His apostles and sent them out into the world to preach His teachings; these apostles passed on what they had learned when they were with Him, which was a key element of Holy Tradition. As Christ promised, He sent the Holy Spirit to His church to teach His followers the truth. This Holy Spirit guided the church leaders as they established this Holy Tradition, ensuring that their faith continued as the true and correct belief, the right way to glorify and worship God.
As years passed, church leaders sent letters to various congregations, and those who had been with Christ put their recollections of the events surrounding Christ’s birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection to writing. However, there was no centralized collection of these letters and writings; local church leaders were left on their own to consider the authenticity of each purported epistle or gospel. Eventually, representatives of the Church gathered together and considered the various letters and writings, and, basing their consideration on Holy Tradition and guided by the Holy Spirit, chose those they considered to be authoritative. This collection became what we call the New Testament which, together with a collection of Jewish holy scriptures, became our Holy Bible.
Later, the Jews saw that Christianity, which was based on Judaism, had a collection of Jewish holy scripture, and decided it was time they organized their own scriptures. Whereas the Christian church included books in what it called the Old Testament that were originally found only in Aramaic or Greek, the Jews decided to exclude any book which could not be found in Hebrew. Over a millenium later, as the Protestants were deciding which books they considered for their version of the Bible, Protestant leaders decided to use for the Protestant Old Testament only those books that could be found in ancient Hebrew, like the Jews had done; however, the Orthodox Bible has more books than the Protestant Bible, and those books are in a slightly different order.
An illustration of the Holy Spirit bringing the true, correct belief to someone by means of Holy Tradition can be found in Acts 8:26-8:40. Philip was traveling and, moved by the Holy Spirit, he caught up with an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading, and the man replied, asking how he could unless he had someone to guide him. Beginning here, Philip, steeped in Holy Tradition, preached to the man Christ and Him crucified. Seeing water, the man asked what would prohibit him from being baptized, and, as Philip baptized him, the man confessed Christ.
There are groups that believe one should attend a “Bible-based church”, but this can be problematic. Without the Holy Spirit to guide one, without Holy Tradition as a reference point, a Bible by itself is no guarantee of infallibility. Indeed, Christ has an opposite number; the devil knows the scriptures, and, given an opportunity, can lead people of good intentions into witch hunts and inquisitions.
There is only one foundation – one base – upon which we can build with confidence, and that foundation is Christ Himself. Building upon this foundation, guided by the Holy Spirit, with reference to the Holy Traditions passed down through Apostolic Succession (which itself was guided by the Holy Spirit and referenced Holy Traditions), and utilizing Holy Scripture, one can be sure that what one builds will endure.
Christ as the Foundation, the Holy Spirit to guide, referencing Holy Traditions and utilizing Holy Scripture: this is the way to believe what is true; this is the correct way to glorify God.
In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
(Slightly modified from a previous post in Facebook.)