How do Early Church Fathers help us understand the Bible in the sense of the kinds of books we read today that explain the Bible?
There are many great books out there that can supplement our understanding of the Bible. One of the things people used to say, and some still do, is that they only read the Bible and nothing else. This is a laudable stance to take at first.
What do you do when you read a verse or a passage in the Bible and you don’t understand it? Of course, the Holy Spirit could explain it to you when you pray and ask him. I have had many times when the Holy Spirit has illuminated Scripture to me without any other helps.
But he can also use the writings of other Christians, scholars and pastors and Bible teachers, to widen our understanding of the Scriptures. It’s okay to say that you only read the Bible as long as you understand everything you are reading. But when you don’t, there’s nothing wrong with turning to others who have studied it in more depth.
We have a whole industry of Christian bookstores because people long to understand God and the Bible more. Everything from books about the themes and ideas of the Bible to books that help us with Christian living can be very useful.
Pastors and Bible teachers use commentaries and other helps when they study the Bible so they can help other people understand it also. There are great books out there that are full of information and anointed understanding of scriptural topics and passages.
But there are also books out there that are unhelpful because they push ideas that are not actually in the text of the Bible. These may be sold in Christian bookstores as well. We must be careful to take in the proper material. There are trusted Christian authors and there are authors who are contested by others.
The early church fathers had the same issues. There were trusted leaders of the church that were writing documents that were very useful to the church body. But there were also heretics that wrote as well. Some of them were deemed heretics at the time that the writings were released into the church population.
The early church fathers help us tremendously with understanding the Bible passages and teachings. They show us what Orthodox Christians were learning from their leaders in the second generation of Christians onward.
Like Christian authors, pastors, and Bible teachers who write books today, the early church fathers were guiding the church back in the first through fourth centuries. But at the same time, Christians also had to watch out for false teachers and heretics.
The same is true today. There are good and biblical Bible teachers who do their best to research their topics with great enthusiasm and expertise. They produce rich and helpful guides for the church and for Christians.
But there are also some who are not as studied and researched, who offer things that are not as useful for us. And just like earlier Christians we must have an ability to discern the things that we read.
Reading the early church fathers’ writings was helpful to the Christians of these earlier centuries as the church was still forming. Today we can rely on many great Bible teachers and Christian authors who expound on God’s Word and help us today like the early church fathers did back then.