“And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” (John 21:25)
The first comment to the above reflection from the Orthodox Christian point of view is that praise the Lord we and the Church are not limited to the written word of sacred scripture. Our constant response to Protestantism comes from II Thessalonians 2:15: “Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” Before the written text of the New Testament was the oral tradition living and inspiring the apostles and early Church members. The Son of God is the Word of God. He is the rationale of the cosmos. He cannot be contained by words written or thoughts by mankind. We should understand the futility of attempting to come to terms with that truth by the lessons of the Lord to the prophet Job.
The evangelist John, considered the first theologian of the Church, inserts the phrase “I suppose” as if it were a casual reflection on all he wrote in his precious gospel; yet we know that he never would write off the cuff, let alone that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. So we are not put off. We also are invited to reflect on this meditation on the number of books that could be written on the doings of our Lord Jesus Christ. As noted in an article titled, From Scroll to Screen, by Lev Grossman, books now are being transformed from paper to Web. At the time of St. John’s gospel, writing went from scroll to codex [rolled-up parchment into the bound book as we now know it]. At present we are experimenting with e-books, reading text from computer screens. Once again we scroll, as was done before books came into being. Only the Lord knows what comes next. Perhaps we would add that even if Google should win its pursuit legally to gather all writings from all time and make them available to humanity, thus preserving the written word held in all the libraries since Christ’s ascension, not even that feat would be capable of containing the record of Christ’s life on earth, deeds that even at this moment are still taking place by Him Who promised: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:30)
Consider that the last words of the Johannine Scripture frame the entire gospel like the right bookend, the left being the introduction: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God” (1:1). That was before the world, universe and cosmos – indeed before any matter – and before He was named Jesus. The word, the Logos of God enters time and space manifesting the will of the Father and doing the will of the Father by the Holy Spirit, as He said: “the works which the Father has given me to finish” – [5:36] is what He has been about. And which He continues to fulfill.
Who would take on himself the task of writing all that the Son of God has been and continues doing in the universe? Where would he begin? Job asked the Lord Almighty why have I suffered; Moses asked Who are You; the poet Tennyson asked what comprises the flower in his hand – none received the answer he sought because the mind of a human being cannot contain, much less grasp, the mystical “things” of God at work in the God-Man Jesus Christ. We Orthodox Christians sing praises to Him, glorify Him for His mighty works, celebrate what we realize as the effects of His energy, but we know that the creature cannot absorb or assimilate the deeds of the Creator.