The CROSS of CHRIST in the Bible
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“Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.”
Rahab, the woman spoken of in this passage, was a harlot in the city of Jericho. As the Israelites came to possess the land, her city was destined for destruction — and she along with it. But she trusted in the true God, was delivered, and her life transformed. The sign of her new-found faith was that she tied a scarlet cord in her window.
This cord represented the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it pointed toward God’s bloody sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world. In fact, all of the Bible is about Jesus Christ and His blood redemption, and you will find this scarlet thread throughout the Word of God.
C.I. Scofield says in his notes on Joshua 2:21 says, "The scarlet line of Rahab speaks, by its color, of safety through sacrifice (Hebrews 9:19, 22)." That red cord pictures a scarlet thread that runs from one end of the Bible to the other.
In his book What the Bible Teaches, R. A. Torrey estimates that there are over 333 references to the death of Christ in the Old Testament and more than 175 in the New. Did you get that? That’s a total of over 500 scriptures about the blood, the death, the cross, the crucifixion of our Savior.
1. The Old Testament Pointed toward the Cross through Prophecy.
From the very beginning of human history, the dying of the innocent for the guilty is revealed. After Adam and Eve sinned, God shed innocent blood in order to make them clothes from animal skins,
Genesis 3:21. This is a picture of the covering of righteousness that we receive through the Lord Jesus Christ death for us.
In Genesis four we read that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. They instinctively wanted to worship God. Cain sacrificed the fruit of the ground. Abel had already learned that God demanded blood, so he brought a lamb to be sacrificed. God accepted the blood of Abel’s lamb, but He did not accept Cain’s works-centered offering. Why? Because “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin, “Hebrews 9:22.
In Genesis 22 God told Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited son Isaac. Just before Abraham plunged the dagger into the quivering heart of his son, an angel stopped him. Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket. Isaac was set free, but an innocent animal’s blood was shed instead.
Then, God determined to deliver His people from slavery in the land of Egypt. On a particular night that became known as the Passover, God instructed each house to slay a lamb and put the blood on their door. God said in Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Blood was shed and blood was applied and blood was trusted. And 1 Corinthians 5:7 declares Jesus Christ as “our Passover.”
In the tabernacle and later in the temple, thousands upon thousands of sheep, oxen, and turtle doves were killed and their blood spilt as sacrifices for sin served as giant visuals of the cross.
Added to these are:
•- The Smitten Rock in Exodus 17, whom Paul says “is Christ,” 1 Corinthians 10
•- The Brazen Serpent in Numbers 21:4-9, whom Jesus would be like Him, lifted up and saving all who look to Him. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up,” John 3:1
•- The scarlet cord in Joshua 2. That cord was not brown, or green, or gray, or black, but “scarlet,” the color of blood. These people fell under the protection of God’s scarlet covering.
•- 1,000 years before Jesus’ birth Psalm 22 presented an incredibly vivid picture of the sufferings of Messiah on the cross. There are 15 quotations or allusions to this Psalm in the New Testament, leading some to call it “the fifth gospel.” Look at all the “cross” words and truths from this Psalm. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, v. 1… “All they that see me laugh me to scorn, v. 7…“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like waxl it is melted in the midst of my bowels,” v. 14… “They pierced by hands and my feet,” v. 16… “I may tell (count) all my bones: they look and star upon me,” v. 17… “They art my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture,” v. 18… “Save me from the lion’s mouth,” v. 21a.
•- F. J. Huegel calls Isaiah 53 “the Mt. Everest of Hope.” H. I. Hester says of this chapter that its prophecies are “so vivid in detail that one would almost think Isaiah as standing at the foot of the cross.”Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus death was 700 years before Christ was born.
•- Daniel 9:25-26 predicted Messiah would be “cut off,” pointing to Messiah’s death.
•- Zechariah 12:10 says, “They shall look on me whom they have pierced.” 13:6 says he would be “wounded in the house of my friends” and verse 7 that He would be the “smitten shepherd.” Zechariah 13:1 “A fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness.”
The foretold blood and sacrifice and cross of our Savior is throughout all of the Old Testament.
Luke 24:25-27. This was after Jesus death and resurrection to two of His disciples. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
2. The Gospels Looked On the Cross and saw its Agony.
When Jesus was born He was
“wrapped in swaddling clothes,” the garments of the dead.
There are four hundred years of silence between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. The New Testament broke the silence with the ministry of John the Baptist, who was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord. No wonder John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world,” John 1:29. Every Jew would immediately connect John the Baptist’s announcement with the morning and evening sacrifices of an innocent lambs at the temple in Jerusalem or the annual Passover lamb offered by the High Priest. It was not the blood of bulls or goats that redeems, but the blood of our Savior, God’s Lamb for the sins of the world.
On the Mt. of Transfiguration Jesus, Moses and Elijah “spake of His decease,” Luke 9:31, that is His cross.
3. The Apostles Looked Back and saw the Practicality of the Cross.
His blood redeems us. There was a price against us that we could not pay, but the blood of Jesus redeemed us 1Peter 1:18-19 says, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things … But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” His blood brings us near to God. According to Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Without the blood of Christ, man is a long way from God. His blood makes peace with God. Man, by nature, is at war with God; and we can only come to God on His peace terms—the blood atonement. The Bible says in Colossians 1:20, “And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself …”
His blood cleanses. Not only does it remove the punishment of sin, it removes the pollution. I don’t care what sin you’ve committed; “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7.
4. The Book of Revelations Looks Forward into Eternity and sees the Victory of the Cross.
Heaven’s song is about “the Lamb who was slain,” Rev. 5:9, 12.
Heaven’s theology is “the blood of the Lamb,” Rev. 7:9-12, 14. “These are thy which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Heaven’s victory is by the blood of the Lamb, Rev. 12;11-12. t’s the blood that Satan fears. Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb …” The devil doesn’t want you to learn about the blood. He hates it!
Heaven’s Supper is “the marriage supper of the Lamb,” Rev.19:7,9. Unlike the western world where the bride is the focus of weddings, in the eastern world the main attraction is the groom. For the moment don’t concern yourself with who the bride is or who the attendants are, rather “give honour to Him.”
"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” Revelation 1:5.
The CROSS in the Teaching of St. Paul
Paul's many references to the "cross" within his epistles always seem to convey this comprehensive perspective of the theological significance of the "finished work" of God in Christ. He asks the Corinthians a rhetorical question: "Paul was not crucified for you, was he?" (I Cor. 1:13). No! Paul was a mere man whose death by whatever means would not have theological significance for mankind. Only the death of Jesus Christ, Son of God, God-man, could take our death-consequences that we might have His life-consequences.
Continuing his correspondence Paul states, "Christ sent me to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void." (I Cor. 1:17) The "finished work" of God set in motion at the cross is intrinsic to the good news of the gospel. "The cross of Christ is made void" when the "finished work," the full theological significance, is not recognized -- when the cross of Christ is presented and received as but the historical basis of a fundamentalistic belief-system or a moralistic ethical system. "The cross of Christ is made void" when continuing performance standards are advocated as criteria for sanctification rather than the "saving life of Christ."
"The word of the cross...to us who are being saved, it is the power of God." (I Cor. 1:18) The comprehensive theological significance of the death of Jesus comprises the divine dynamic of the life of Christ in the Christian. Christians who are "being saved" from the dysfunction of fallen humanity receive that divine dynamic in order to function as God intended.
"We preach Christ crucified" (I Cor. 1:23), Paul declares. The perfect tense verb indicates completed action in the past, the consequences of which remain to the present, i.e. the "finished work" of God commenced at the crucifixion death of Jesus and allowing for the life of Jesus to be lived in us presently.
Likewise, in I Cor. 2:2 Paul employs the perfect tense verb when he writes, 'I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Ministering "in demonstration of the Spirit and power" (2:4), Paul is operating by the "finished work" of God in Christ and is thus "spiritual," without the additives of man-made criteria of "spirituality" which impose performance standards to allegedly "finish" God's work in the Christian.
Writing to the Galatians, Paul is very explicit about Christ's death on the cross being the decisive event that leads to the completion of God's restorative work. He refers to the "Galatians...before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified" (perfect tense)(Gal. 3:1). Paul had clearly spelled out, graphically presented to the Galatians how Jesus took our death to give us His life, took the consequences of our unrighteousness to give us His righteousness. The implication is that if the Galatians have understood the "finished work" of Christ, they would not continue to be persuaded by the false purveyors of legalism to pursue performance, "works," self-efforts to finish the work.
"If I still preach circumcision" (works)..."then the stumblingblock of the cross has been abolished." (Gal. 5:11). The stumblingblock, the scandal, the offense of the cross is that Jesus finished doing everything that needed to be done before God. There is nothing we can do! This is "offensive" to the natural man who wants to take some credit, who wants to think there is some merit in what he has done, who doesn't want to be a welfare recipient "on the dole." There is no basis for any human pride in performance when we simply receive by faith what Christ does. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross and the subsequent availability of the divine life to all mankind, comprises the "finished work," the sole basis of right relationship and fellowship with God.
Religion and all its "works" programs have been exposed as frauds by the "finished work" of Christ. Consequently they are quick to denigrate and persecute those who teach and live by the grace-work of God in Christ. Paul explains that the religionists "try to compel you to be circumcised, that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ" (Gal. 6:12). They do not want to be persecuted and mocked by other religionists for preaching the grace of God in the activity of Jesus Christ alone. Paul then declares, "may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14). Paul never wants to boast in what he has done by self-effort or performance, only in what Christ has done and continues to do -- the "finished work."
Christ's "finished work" reconciles both Jew and Gentile into one new creation, new humanity, new body, "through the cross" (Eph. 2:16). The remedial action of Christ's death and the restorative action of Christ's life is for all men universally, and is the means whereby they are restored to functional humanity, functional society and community by the functional life of God in man.
Likewise, "all things" are reconciled to God by His "having made peace through the blood of the cross" (Col. 1:20). The alienation of the whole creation was due to sin, the consequence of sin was death, and death has been taken by Jesus Christ. Reconciliation, peace, the restoration of all things, the restoration of creation has been effected by the "finished work" of Jesus.
Through his tears Paul decries that there are many who "are enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil. 3:18). Many there are who do not understand and live on the basis of the "finished work" of Christ. They do not accept that Christ has done all that needs doing and continues to be the dynamic of grace for the expression of His life and character in the Christian. These "enemies of the cross" still advocate legalistic "works" of self-effort, perfectionist performance and piety.
The theological significance of the cross must be understood within the context of the "finished work" of God in Christ. Though the cross itself was but the death instrument, it was there that Jesus victoriously proclaimed, "It is finished!" The remedial action of substitutionary death leads directly to the restorative action of God's life in the Christian. Christ took our death to give us His life, took the consequences of our unrighteousness to give us His righteousness. The "finished work" of Jesus Christ is inclusive of redemption, regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification.
Paul explains in Romans 6:6 that "our old man was crucified with Him (Jesus Christ), that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." It is important to observe several particulars of what Paul writes in this verse:
First of all, he employs a compound Greek word, sustauroõ, which means "to crucify together with." This has often been referred to as the Christian's "co-crucifixion" with Jesus. It is best to avoid such terminology, as the English prefix "co-" can mean "jointly" or "together with," but it also can mean "equally," "in the same degree," or "as a complement to." We would not want to imply that our subjective crucifixion experience is of equal significance or in the same degree as the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor would we want to imply that our experience of being crucified is a complement to Christ's crucifixion in order to complete it. Jesus said, "It is finished" completed! Our having been "crucified together with" Jesus must be understood in terms of spiritual solidarity. When Jesus died on the cross He died there for me, but He also died there as me. When He died, I died. I was "in Him" when He died. The entire human race was represented by Jesus when He took the death consequences for sin upon Himself, but that spiritual solidarity becomes personally and subjectively efficacious for me when I receive Jesus Christ by faith. The verb is an aorist tense indicating that "to have been crucified with Him" was a definite occurence historically enacted when Jesus died on the cross, and which becomes experientially effective at the definite occasion of our spiritual conversion.
Secondly, Paul writes that our "old man" has been crucified together with Christ. The designation "old man" signifies our spiritual identity when we were a "man of old" in our old spiritual condition of unregeneracy. Our pre-Christian identity was that of a "natural man" (I Cor. 2:14), a "child of wrath" (Eph. 2:3), an "old man." That "old man" identity was "laid aside" (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9 - both aorist tense verbs) when we became Christians and received a "new man" identity (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). The old spiritual identity of the unregenerate Jim Fowler is forever dead, having died with Jesus. I now have a new spiritual identity as a "new creature" (II Cor. 5:17) in Christ, a "child of God" (John 1:12), a "spiritual" man (I Cor. 2:15; Gal. 6:1), a Christ-one - "Christian." This was made effective for me, in me, spiritually when I received Jesus Christ by faith at conversion and regeneration. The "old man" is not synonymous with the "flesh" or "indwelling sin" that remains residually in the soul of the Christian, nor is it to be equated with the unbiblical phrases such as "old nature," "sin-nature," "Adam-nature," "self," "sin-principle," etc.
Thirdly, Paul explains that when this exchange of spiritual identity has taken place, our "old man" identity having been terminated and put to death and our "new man" identity established in identification with the indwelling life of Jesus Christ, this spiritual exchange has practical implications for our behavioral expression. We are no longer "slaves to sin" inevitably expressing the character of our old spiritual identification. Our physical bodies are no longer to be employed as the vehicle of sin expression, for such is misrepresentative of our new identity and the character of Christ who now lives in us as Christians. Our behavior is intended to be a consistent expression of our new identity -- of the life of Christ. When writing to the Ephesians and Colossians, Paul also explains that the "new man" identity is to issue forth in consistent behavior (Eph. 4:25-32; Col. 3:12-17). We are to behave as who we have become "in Christ."
Galatians 2:20 is the only other figurative usage of the Greek word sustauroõ within the New Testament. "I have been crucified with Christ," Paul writes, using the perfect tense of the verb in the first person singular. Once again, he must be referring to the "old spiritual identity" he had as an unregenerate man. When Jesus died that old unregenerate identity of Paul was put to death "in Him." Jesus died to effect our death in order to change all men from "sinners" (Rom. 5:19) to "saints" (I Cor. 1:2). "It is no longer I (the old spiritual identity) who lives, but Christ lives in me," Paul goes on to say. As a Christian we have a new spiritual identity as a "Christ-one," a Christian. The indwelling Christ is the essence of my new spiritual identity. The Spirit of Christ is the dynamic of the out-living of His life in Christian behavior. Paul continues to explain: "the life that I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." To require any additional legalistic requirements of performance or to demand any other criteria of "spirituality" is logically to imply that Christ "died needlessly" (Gal. 2:24), for such denies the "finished work" of Christ and sets aside grace.
Two additional references in Paul's correspondence with the Galatians also employ the Greek verb staurõ in explaining the consequences of this spiritual identification that all Christians have made with the crucifixion of Jesus. Galatians 5:24 indicates that "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified (aorist tense) the flesh with its passions and desires." Spiritual identification with "the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:3) has been terminated. There has been a cessation of the direct contact and inner empowering of the flesh patternings of behavior in the desires of our soul. The jurisdictional control whereby we were "slaves of sin" has been terminated. Likewise in Galatians 6:14 Paul declares that through the cross "the world has been crucified (perfect tense) to me, and I to the world." Again, just as the contours of sinful patterning have been severed from their spiritual operative source, so the context of the collective expression of selfishness and sinfulness by the "god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4) has ceased to have any claim or power or right or jurisdiction in our Christian lives. We are free to live by the life of Jesus Christ.
We have now referred to every pertinent reference to the "cross" and to the action of "crucifixion" in the New Testament -- every usage of the noun form stauros, the verb form stauroõ, and the compound verb form sustauroõ. The historical event of Christ's death by crucifixion on a material cross outside of Jerusalem has theological significance as the "finished work" of God in Christ inclusive of the subjective spiritual identification of our crucified old identity with the consequential disenfranchising of the flesh and the world.
The important observation which must now be made is that all of this action has been completed, accomplished and fulfilled in the "finished work" of Jesus Christ exclaimed from the cross. There is no on-going, continuous process of enacting, engaging, applying or appropriating the crucifixion of Jesus in the life of a Christian. The effects of the crucifixion of Jesus were a completed objective reality at the time of Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, ascension and Pentecostal outpouring and were subjectively realized individually at the Christian's conversion. "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away (aorist tense); behold, new things have come (perfect tense)" (II Cor. 5:17). Every Christian has accepted spiritual solidarity with all that Christ has done and spiritual identification with the death and life of Christ.
The verb tenses employed by Paul which connect our subjective identification with Christ's objective death by crucifixion all imply definite completed action. For example:
Rom. 6:6 - "our old man has been crucified (aorist) with Christ"
Rom. 6:7 - "he who has died (aorist) has been freed (perfect) from sin."
Rom. 7:4 - "you were made to die (aorist) to the Law."
Rom. 7:6 - "having died (aorist) to that by which we were bound"
Gal. 2:19 - "I died (aorist) to the Law, that I might live to God."
Gal. 2:20 - "I have been crucified (perfect) with Christ"
Gal. 5:24 - "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified (aorist) the flesh."
Gal. 6:14 - "the world has been crucified (perfect) to me, and I to the world."
Col. 3:3 - "you have died (aorist) and your life is hidden (perfect) with Christ."
This is not to imply that our spiritual identification with the crucifixion of Jesus does not have behavioral implications. Indeed it does, but not in a continuing application of Christ's dying, rather only as a consequence of the spiritual identification and participation in the "finished work" of Christ. A. B. Bruce remarked that "the ethical aspect of Christ's death is hardly touched on in the Pauline literature," and went on to note that Paul "contemplates the death of Jesus...exclusively from a religious and theological viewpoint."6 This is a correct observation but is not meant to deny that as a result of the objective theological significance and subjective spiritual identification there will not be behavioral implications as the life of Jesus Christ is lived out in the Christian.
The Biblical passages which immediately follow the statements of the theological significance of Christ's crucifixion often procede to consider behavioral implications. Having been crucified with Christ, we should "no longer be slaves to sin" (Rom. 6:6), but "live with Christ" (Rom. 6:8), "bear fruit for God" (Rom. 7:4), "serve in newness of the Spirit" (Rom. 7:6), be "led by the Spirit" (Rom. 8:14), "live by faith in the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20), and "walk by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25) in the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22,23). On the basis of having exchanged our "old man" identification for a "new man" identification, there will be behavioral implications of "righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24) with numerous practical expressions (cf. Eph. 4:25-5:21; Col. 3:12-17).
Many of the Scriptures used to justify the use of the phrase "dying to self" refer to Paul's own physical persecution and suffering, not to any on-going expected action within the Christian life. When Paul says, "I die daily" (I Cor. 15:31); "we are being put to death all day long" (Romans 8:36); "we are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake" (II Cor. 4:11); and when he expresses his desire to know "the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death" (Phil. 3:10, the context always indicates that Paul is being physically persecuted. His personal embodiment is being beaten and battered unto death, but he is quite willing to suffer thus for Jesus' sake.
The phrase "dying to self" is often used to encourage masochistic "works" of continued performance in order to live the Christian life. When it is thus used as a call to self-effort, and when it is implied that Christ's activity in and through the Christian is contingent upon this action of the Christian, then those who teach this have effectively denied the "finished work" of Jesus Christ. Others advocate "dying to self" simply as the renunciation of the "straw-man" of humanistic self-potential -- an exercise in irrelevancy.
The cross as a symbol was further entrenched as the primary symbol of Christian religion after the Roman emperor, Constantine, claimed to have seen a flaming cross of light in the sky with the words, "By this sign conquer." He henceforth merged Christian religion with his political aspirations using the symbol of the cross. Constantine's mother, Helena, is alleged to have travelled to Palestine in 325 A.D. and she claimed to have discovered the original wooden cross on which Jesus was crucified. The criteria for the claim was that a sick person had grasped the wood and was allegedly healed. Small fragments were transported back to Rome and sold to wealthy believers as priceless relics. There were not enough to supply the demand so they claimed "the miracle of the multiplication of the cross" whereby many more splinters from the cross were allegedly formed. It is reported that wood fragments existed in Roman Catholic churches around the world sufficient to construct many crosses.
A. Earliest Christians eschewed symbol of cross. An execution instrument.
B. Constantine used cross as symbol to merge Roman empire and Christian religion.
C. Cross became fetish to ward off evil spirits. Idolatry.
D. Idea of cross invested with deified and personified power.
1. "the cross is divine."
2. "the cross saves you"
3. "submit to the power of the cross"
4. "have faith in the cross"
5. "place yourself on the cross"
6. "allow the cross to put you to death"
E. Christians must reject the mystical use of the cross.
2. "Works" theology
3. Gnostic concept of spirituality.
VI. The gospel is the message of the cross.
A. Christ took our death consequences in order to give us His life.
B. The "finished work" of Jesus Christ is operative in Christians today.
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