Has Your Bible Become A Quran?

Those who engage in debates on a regular basis know that the argument itself can easily shape the points involved. This is another way of saying that some debates should be avoided entirely since merely getting involved in them can be the road to ruin. There are a number of Christian scholars (particularly among the Orthodox) who think that the classical debates between Christians and Muslims during the Middle Ages had just such…

There Is No “Bible” in the Bible

There are certain ideas that, once introduced, tend to change how people think of everything else. This is certainly the case with the Bible. For of all the ideas about the Scripture, the most recent is the notion of “the Bible.” The word “Bible” simply means “book.” Thus, it is a name that means “the Book.” It is a particularly late notion if for no other reason than that books are a…

Knowing God’s Will

“What is God’s will for my life?” No question is either more poignant nor more misguided on the lips of a Christian. It cuts particularly deep because it is most often spoken by the young or by those who feel they have lost their way. It is misguided because it makes a large number of false assumptions about the nature of our relationship with God as well as false assumptions about our…

Hidden in Plain Sense

Regardless of the tools and methods used in interpreting the Scriptures, the Fathers had a common assumption – they agreed that the truth was hidden behind the letter of the text. They believed that something was hidden and that it was God Himself who had done the hiding. There were a variety of methods employed for revealing what was hidden, some more concerned about the text itself than others. Many modern believers…

History and the Gospel

I remember a grumpy student once saying: “I hate history! It’s just one darned thing after another!” And so it is. For although we study history, we think of it as a simple collection of events, a way of telling the story of the world. Like a well-written newspaper account, we expect history to state the facts as accurately as possible and leave for the reader the task of interpretation. Is it…

Again – The Sin of Democracy

In light of the present discussion of reading the Bible, I offer this reprint. Our modern age has drunk the kool-aid of philosophical democracy (the autonomous authority of the individual) to the dregs and seeks to use the Bible to underwrite the project. A book that could not have been owned by an individual prior to the printing press in the 15th century (by reason of cost) cannot be used philosophically to…

Making Known the Mystery

The trouble with reading Scripture is that almost everybody thinks they can do it. This idea is rooted in the assumptions of Protestant thought: only if the meaning of Scripture is fairly obvious and more or less objective can it serve as a source of unmediated authority for the believer. If any particular skill or mastery is required, then the skillful masters will be the mediators of meaning for all the rest.…

The Debt of Sin and the Sin of Debt

There are a number of ideas and phrases that most Biblically literate Christians would swear were in the Bible, but are not. Among those is the phrase (or concept) of the “debt of sin.” It is simply not there. Nor is there a phrase that describes sin as something that we “owe.” Again, it’s simply not there. The phrase, “the debt of sin,” or “sin debt” is extra-biblical. It is an idea…

The Scope of Passover and Penal Substitution Theory

One of the terms used in the early fathers when interpreting the Scriptures was the “scope” of Scripture. By this they meant backing away from the detail of the text to see the larger picture, the “scope” of a broad reading. This technique was particularly valued in the so-called Antiochene School of interpretation, which is usually associated with a more historical/literal reading of Scripture. The failure to see the “scope” of the…

Christ Our Passover

St. Paul offers the familiar words: “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!” (1 Cor. 5:7). Most readers of the Bible will find nothing surprising about this – though they should. It is an extremely sophisticated commentary on the death and resurrection of Christ uttered at a very early date in Christian history. For what is equally as remarkable as the eye-witness accounts of the resurrection, are the primitive proclamations about what…