“Scripture and Responsibility,” or “Someone Stole My God and Put a Bible in It’s Place!”

Posted: June 9, 2012 in Rite and Rituals
Tags: , ,

I got a message on one of my social media sites from someone I don’t know.  They were upset with some of the blog posts that I had written.  They wrote,

All due respect, I get what you’re trying to do with your blog, but you are irresponsible with your perspective. You are pitting the world against Christians in the name of reaching them. That said, there is very little that is explicitly biblical in your blogs. You rely on opinion and hope. The scriptures themselves are the only hope we have, and I would suggest that your addition (or subtraction of their authority) are dangerous and, again, irresponsible to say the least.

One of the phrases that I think humanity should abandon, in general, is “all due respect.”  It pretty much ensures that what they say won’t be very respectful…

I’m not offended or anything.  People are welcome to have their own opinions, although I disagree with the writer’s analysis.  I don’t think it’s irresponsible to come into conversation with scripture, and I don’t find my writings based on “opinions and hope.”  There is much scholarship (and late nights with beer and granola bars) that inform these posts.  Hence why I don’t post every day…sometimes I have to sleep.

And I don’t think I’m pitting the world against Christians (what does that even mean?).  Although I’m uncertain exactly what the writer is trying to say there, I’m pretty sure that Christians are doing a pretty good job of pitting people against them on their own…

But I think that the writer makes one substantial claim that can be enlightening in teasing out the reason (or, at least one of the reasons) why certain parts of the faith/a-faith community talk over one another.  Did you double-take at the line, “the scriptures themselves are the only hope” that humanity has?

Yikes.

I’m a Christian, a person of faith, and I have to say that my hope is not in the scriptures.

The story of Jesus that is told in the scriptures is the most intriguing story I’ve ever read.  I believe that God has revealed something in the Christ that can’t be ignored for it’s importance and life-changing ability.  I believe that, in the person of Jesus, God started something new in the world.  So new, in fact, that people had to write about it in haste.

But you see, that’s just it.  My hope is in God’s work through Jesus.  The scriptures contain that story, but they aren’t the object of my hope itself.  Somewhere along the line we’ve turned the scriptures into God…and then everyone who begins to question them, to delve into their historical context to weed out discrepancies and cultural trappings becomes “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”

In short, my question is: “If the Bible isn’t God, why are so many people worshiping it?”

As a Christian, a person of faith, a pastor, the Bible informs my faith.  It is the feedbox of faith; not the fence nor the object of faith.

But we’ve turned it into the idol on a pedestal.  We’ve claimed it as “infallible” and “inerrant.”  My favorite variation of this claim is that it is “inerrant in it’s original languages.”  Nice dodge, people.  I hate to say it, but that’s not exactly how language works.  It is not intellectually honest to claim that something is perfect in its original but long-lost form.  It’s a quaint way of acknowledging that there are internal inconsistencies with the scriptures while escaping any need to take them seriously.

Infallibility and inerrancy are traits commonly ascribed to the Divine itself.   But because we can’t see the Divine in the ways we want to, we’ve created this lovely Bible-calf out of the gold of our desire for concrete things, and think that full “authority” rests in it instead of the God it points to.

As an interesting test-study, let’s look at some scripture passages (as the person who wrote to me doesn’t think I use enough) that are commonly held up as proofs for the Bible’s inerrant nature and infallibility to engage the heart of the issue.

In 2 Timothy 3:16 the writer says, “All scripture is God breathed.”  This has commonly been used as a defense for the Bible’s infallibility and inerrant nature.

Unfortunately, the writer of 2 Timothy didn’t have a Bible.  They only had the Torah, the Psalms, and some wisdom writings.  In fact, they may not have even had all of those, depending on where they were in the world.  So, unless the writer of 2 Timothy was indeed projecting 300 years into the future to when the scriptures were canonized, the writer was talking about some other books.

On the face, to say that “all scripture is God-breathed” seems pretty cut and dry.  It can very easily be understood as talking about the canonized Bible because, for the last 1700 years, that’s exactly what most people have been talking about when they say the word “scripture.”

But I think it is irresponsible to allow that line of thinking to go on without some good questions like, “What writings did the author have?” and “What was the understanding of ‘God-breathed’ that they may have been working with?”  Too often we imagine these writers like they are sitting in Cleveland using the same dictionary we have on our shelves.

Another example that deserves a spin on the old turn-table of critical thought: Revelation 22:19, “And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from (them) a share of the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described therein.”

I love Revelation.  It’s a book of unending interest to me.  A great treatment on the subject was written by my seminary professor Barbara Rossing entitled, “The Rapture Exposed.” (Spoiler alert: the “rapture” is exposed as a bunch of leviathan dung…)

But one of the problems with this verse from Revelation’s 22nd chapter is that, for years I’ve heard preachers who haven’t done their homework take this line and apply it to the whole canon.  I mean, not only is it clear that John the Diviner (the name we’ve given to the writer of Revelation) didn’t intend for that to be the case, it’s absolutely reprehensible to suggest that notion to someone interested in the faith because it automatically cuts off any ability to question or wrestle with scripture.

If the result of wrestling, questioning, and even saying, “hey, that’s a little nuts…” is being cut off from God’s grace, do you think people are going to do it?  Instead people start yelling “false prophet!” or “anti-Christ” or…well, other things that people begin to yell when they feel like their faith is threatened.  It cuts off conversation at it’s core.

There are other verses and proof-texts, of course.  Many.  You know of some, too.

The person who wrote to me said that my suggestions are irresponsible, and that my thoughts are dangerous.  I want to say, quite plainly, that I think that reading the Bible without taking note of its historical context is irresponsible for a pastor/theologian leading a faith community, and that I think its dangerous for the faith to continue along this anti-intellectual trajectory that we’ve been heading down since the Enlightenment.

My own context, Lutheranism, has always understood scripture to be read in three ways: for devotion (spiritual edification), proclamation (faith formation), and study (critical learning).  I like that we uphold (at least) three ways…it’s very Trinitarian. And they each inform the other and have elements of the other within them.  My own faith has been edified and formed through critical study.  My devotional life has been formed and developed by hearing the scriptures and ancient texts read with other people gathered around.

But having a multivariant approach to scripture is important.  It’s important because the scriptures are not one monolithic writing, but contain myths, legends, histories, testimonies, letters, and all sorts of type of writings, and that variance should be acknowledged through a lens that allows for it.  It’s important because it prevents the reader from putting the Bible, as words on a page, on a pedestal because each approach informs and critiques the other.

Martin Luther himself, who took the Bible more seriously than most in an age where reading wasn’t exactly in vogue and questioning authority wasn’t encouraged (remember what happened to Hus?), even argued with scripture.  He opined that the book of James and the book of Revelation should be cut from the canon (at least, in his younger less angry years).  Was that irresponsible?

Or was it him taking scripture and what it is seriously?

I take scripture seriously, not literally. For me it is not some fable nor is it a golden book that fell from the sky. It holds the most intriguing story I’ve ever heard in which I put my hope…but it’s not the story itself, and is certainly not the hope.

So, read your Bibles, preferably with other people.  Don’t worship them.  And if you’re a pastor, introduce some critical thinking into your instruction…the world will be better for it.

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Comments
  1. Thank you so much for posting this! This is exactly the core of the problem in trying to get progressive and conservative Christians to agree: if we cannot question scripture because it is God’s only word, direct from his mouth to the writers’ ears; and there is only one right interpretation and the rest are subtle blasphemies inspired by Satan, then the only choice is to believe as conservatives believe or be damned “to a Christ-less eternity”, as my conservative friends used to say. There’s no room for discussion.

    I came to a deep crisis in my faith some years ago, and decided to start looking into the origins of the Bible and of Christianity. I came to the same conclusion you did about the Bible. If people only knew that some of Christianity’s most treasured doctrines were adopted from the myriad of Christian spin-offs that developed after the death of Christ, they’d probably come to the same conclusion. Even the idea that we should have one “Bible” and one set of beliefs for all of Christianity didn’t come about until 325 AD, and now, as then, people still resist orthodoxy. But instead of torturing people into a profession of faith, now we try to marginalize them socially. It happens on both ends of the conservative –> progressive scale. WWJD? I think he’d say, “Wait–this isn’t what I was talking about AT. ALL!” I think even Paul would stand there speechless and shaking his head, like the soldiers in “Life of Brian” watching the warring radical factions wipe one another out.

  2. […] We'll look at it on Sunday through the Adam and Eve story. … Read the original here: “Scripture and Responsibility,” or “Somone Stole My God and Put a … ← Q for All Believers of the Bible: Is Its Content Directly, Soley, Purely … […]

  3. candacekay says:

    We United Methodists have a little thing called the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” that comes in handy here. It means that our reliance on Scripture is tempered by an equal reliance on Tradition, Reason, and Experience. Those are the four “legs” of our faith.

    This approach has saved me from so much unnecessary stress – the Quadrilateral reassures me that I don’t have to abandon my God-given capacity for rational thought in order to be “religious.” And it frees me to encounter the Bible in a variety of ways, not just as God’s Rulebook.

  4. iamzion says:

    I appreciate your blog…it resonates with much of my own faith and differences with organized religion…in fact I touched briefly on this in my own blog to day….keep writing, with beer and granola bars or without (that was a great line)!

  5. Nerdiah says:

    I wonder what would have happened if my teachers had encouraged this kind of understanding instead of fundamentalism.

  6. shelly6046 says:

    Thank you! As a seminarian, even at a progressive seminary, I am glad for your voice in what seems like an endless sea of biblicism. I appreciate your blog as it makes me feel not so alone and gives me hope. Thanks for being bold even when it is not easy!

  7. Debra VanSandt says:

    Thank you for clearly stating what I’ve said for years. I especially love the next-to-the last paragraph. I may quote you some day soon, now that I know that I’m not ‘crying in the wilderness.’ Thank you for the analogies, as well. Have you ever taught the Disciple Bible study course? It would definitely meet your criteria for informed, critical Bible study.

    • Timothy Brown says:

      Thanks, Debra! I haven’t, but I’ll take a look at it to see what it has.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. Laurie A. Sanderson says:

    Thank you, my daughter introduced me to your blog and I find it thoughtful and inspiring. By the way “The rapture Exposed” was a favorite in my Feminist Theology group a few years ago.

  9. Hugh says:

    Over the years I have moved from a literal to a much broader view of the Bible. The thing that I know find odd is how did I ever believe the Bible was ‘The Word of God’ when the Bible itself, in John 1, makes it very clear that it isn’t – Jesus is The Word.

    • Timothy Brown says:

      Hey Hugh,

      Jesus is the Logos, the Word indeed. Lutherans see scripture as the Word of God as well…but in a different way. It is the Word of people’s experience and thoughts about God, as shown through that time and place.

      But we all must continue to move and evolve in our faith. Thank you for sharing your journey with these people!

  10. Don Kriefall says:

    Recommended reading, The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller.

    • Timothy Brown says:

      Hey Don,

      I’ve read Keller’s book. It was OK. I thought he was a bit quick to offer up answers to his questions. It does little good to ask a question if you think you already have the answer.

      What did you think about his book?

      • Don Kriefall says:

        I think Keller is a good listener. I think the Holy Spirit speaks through him, and although his answers are simple, they speak the truth. If we think that our feeble human reasoning and intellect can fully understand our God, we are sadly mistaken. Pastors are called to preach the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ and that through the Holy Spirit we can come to believe.

        To try to fully understand our God is beyond even the most enlightened human being. That is what faith is about. I do not understand how Jesus could be physically raised after being dead in the tomb for three days, but I believe that there is nothing beyond our God. By faith, I believe. My love of my God and my appreciation of what Jesus did for me compels me to try to please him in all I do. That is why I want to be obedient. But, I fail, far too often. Even so, I have the promise that, by faith, God’s grace covers me, forgives me and He has a place for me in His kingdom. And where can I continue to be filled with the bread of life? There is only one place His word is written. I dwell in His word, share it with others and listen to the pure Gospel that is preached. Is there ever any doubt? Of course, that is our nature. Are there those that use the Bible as a war club? Certainly!

        http://commonsenseforasenslessworld.blogspot.com/2012/01/rules-rules-rules.html

        I hope this helps you understand where I’m coming from.

      • Timothy Brown says:

        Hey Don, thanks for clarifying yourself. I think that the Holy Spirit speaks through many avenues.

        I wrote a book review on Keller’s book a while back. It was short, of course. There’s not always time for a full treatment. I agree we cannot understand God fully, but I also think we’re often too quick to discount human intellect in delving into the things around the Divine. It does not suit me to say, “That’s the way God wants it” or “That’s what God says.” I’m not implying that this is what you are saying, but I think it’s a danger of taking the intellect too lightly. I think God has called us, as thinking beings, to more.

        Thanks for reading and commenting.

  11. Claire says:

    So I read the first comment and started a mental tangent when I read the word “orthodox.” So this isn’t a comment on the comment, but I hope a tangent that is helpful and thought provoking.

    Professor Lisa Driver of Valparaiso University did a presentation a few years ago for Deaconess Student Seminar. She was presenting on her most recent book at the time and made a comment about orthodoxy. What I remember her saying was something brilliant that I can’t reproduce, but it started here-ish:

    Today (with our current dictionaries and thoughts) orthodoxy tends to connote a rigid structure. The word has negative connotations because it seems to be against a notion of freedom. However, when the canon was being set and orthodoxy was being defined (as it is still being defined today), there were some marvelous things happening. There is not 1 gospel narrative but 4. What a generous group of scholars there were to be ok with 4 accounts. So true orthodoxy isn’t stifling, but it gives us a skeleton that grounds us as we learn to crawl, to walk, to run, to sit.

    tangent done

    • Timothy Brown says:

      Lovely, Claire. And quite true. Orthodoxy is the bone to a body, not the flesh, when it works well (I think). Thanks!

  12. I’ll be damned — you nailed it! Brilliant piece of work.

  13. stumbled upon this and sorry for the out of date comment, but are you then suggesting its not inerrant? As for the writer of 2 Tim, if it was Paul as the letter claims, well he had a huge chunk of the Bile – not only the whole OT for sure (given his background) but also his own bits (most of the NT) and he had Luke with him (Col 4) so probably access to the gospels.

    • Timothy Brown says:

      I am suggesting it’s not inerrant.

      Paul would not have had his own writings. They were letters; sent away. And they weren’t considered “scripture” at that time.

      And Colossians was most likely not written by Paul.

      • Well someone considered thems cripture (2 Peter 3), almost certainly peter but i suspect you disagree with taht too.

        Do you mean he had no direct input into it or it was written by someone under his direct authority. if they weren’t written by paul (or under his direction) then they wree written by an impostor which means we can rubbish them in their entirety. Esp colossians since it ends with paul signing it himself.

        so how exactly do you decide what is errant and what isn’t. Given taht most of the Bible claims in some shape or form to be the wrod of God, which parts are you keeping and which are you chucking out?
        re paul and his own letters, he doesn;t have to have a physical copy tohave them in mind as scripture (1 cor7).

      • Timothy Brown says:

        So, there’s no need or reason to “rubbish” anything (I quite like that term…we don’t use it enough here in the states).

        The fact that I don’t think Paul wrote Colossians is not anything bad (or new, actually…scholars have doubted that Pauline authorship for over a century now). It just means that someone wrote in his name, a practice well documented in the ancient world.

        And the first readers o these letters most likely knew that, and it didn’t seem to give them problems. It just seems to give modern readers fits because we think something is only “true” if it fits certain objective criteria (i. e. original authorship or the like). There are some great resources out there on epistle authorship.

        But to answer your second part, I don’t consider any part of Scripture “inerrant.” That was a doctrine created to keep people from questioning, and as I say in my piece, relegates scripture to the same level as an encyclopedia.

        And there is no way that Paul had parts of Luke when he wrote his letters because (if you’ll see the Bible timeline post) Luke wasn’t written until 30 years after Paul was writing…and by then Paul was most likely dead.

        So, I know this can all be alittle jarring, but this is scholarship on the subject. You didn’t read and trust Colossians because it was written by Paul (at least I hope not). You read it because it age faithful witness.

        Likewise, I hope you don’t read scripture because you think it’s somehow inerrant. If you do, you’re in for a hard time because it’s so internally inconsistent that the mental gymnastics necessary to hold that position are impossible to maintain with any honesty. Take for example the fact that Jesus dies on a Thursday in John, and a Friday in Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

        Which was it?

        You read the scriptures because they give faithful witness to the Christ. My lens for reading any of the Bible is, therefore, Jesus.

        Not inerrancy, or infallibility, but Jesus.

        No need to pick and choose, just filter through Jesus.

  14. I meant Luke the person, not the letter, hence the reference to Colossians. And i said in my original comment not under Paul’s direction – although i suspect you are saying not under his direction, just assuming his authority.

    i’m sorry, when a letter claims to be signed by someone (Col 4:18), if it isn’t, the person who penned that line is lying. And how can soothing that is not reliable be considered a “faithful witness”. It certainly wouldn’t be in any modern court of law.

    Ah, the “Jesus filter”. How is it that you know anything about Jesus other than from this apparently error ridden document. Because of course you aren’t the first, nor the last, to think the Bible is full or errors. That chap Mohammed at least had the good sense to rewrite it so we could tell which bits were actually correct.

    So how do you apply your Jesus filter?

    And let me be clear – i am not suggesting we worship the Bible. I’m saying without the Bible we have no idea who we are worshipping. I agree it is a faithful witness – but for it to be faithful witness it needs to be correct.

    • Timothy Brown says:

      I think we have different understandings of “correct.”

      And I understood you meant Luke the person, I just don’t think that’s possible. Regardless, Luke the person would not have had the same experience anyway, were he really with the writer of Colossians.

      But to say that a letter can’t be written under someone else’s name and still be reliable is to discount much of ancient literature. It was a very common practice! And I don’t think it negates it in the least.

      The Bible is not “full of errors” in a negative sense. It just doesn’t always line up…and doesn’t have to to be reliable. It’s the very post-enlightened mind that requires such restrictions. The Bible is of an ancient mind, compiled in that way.

      But I suspect we’re not going to agree here, that’s ok. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      • Sadly it’s not that simple. Because once you start discrediting the Bible, as you seem to be doing with Colossians, you are left with the rather large problem of not knowing what is what.

        And let’s be crystal clear about Colossians. This is not a mere case of someone else writing a letter – it’s some one writing a letter *and claiming it is signed by Paul*.

        So again, when you pull it down, you need to put something in its place.

        And I think as a minster you owe it to those who visit your blog to tell them what that is. And there is a very big and important difference between reserving judgement on something that apparently doesn’t line up on the one hand, and saying that there are errors on the other.

        Sadly I fear the end result of this is heading back into the dark ages when only those with “special insight” could really handle the scriptures. Instead of, as it was always intended, being there for anyone to read.

      • Timothy Brown says:

        As I said, it’s clear we’re coming from different places on this. You claim that I’m discrediting scripture. I claim that I’m reading scripture while keeping it’s origins in mind and heart.

        As a minister, I feel I owe it to my parishioners to be honest about authorship. I feel Christianity has done a disservice in not talking about these things, which then encourages frustration and a feeling of defensiveness when they’re brought to light.

        I don’t know that there’s much more you and I can say on the matter. I hope you can see that I do feel we’re both trying to be faithful here.

      • I’m really sorry to press this but it seems to me that what you are doing with your treatment of Colossians is what is known in legal circles as dismantling a witness – not building one up. You cast doubt over peripheral issues based on debatable evidence but the real damage comes when more weightier doctrines are discussed.

        In our chance discussion on just one chapter in Colossians (Col 4) you’ve already said (1) Luke wasn’t with him, which is the plain reading of the passage and (2) it wasn’t written by Paul, which is expressly stated in the same chapter. I would not have regarded either of those as contentious on a plain reading. So I think it would be good to know what other plain readings are not correct, and it would be great if you could let the rest of us who are also reading the Bible know which bits are true and which aren’t. Esp if these relate to matters of important doctrine.

        If you profess to be a Christian (which you seem to) I regard you as a brother, and so forgive me, but we are very much coming from the same place (IMHO) and the question of the reliability of the Bible is one of the most important issues of faith a Christian can face. So I am sorry, but this is not something that should just be left to lie.

        If you answer only one question, please say what the “Jesus filter” is, where you get it from and how we can also be confident about it.

      • Timothy Brown says:

        Clapham, it’s ok to press an issue as long as neither of us are expecting the other person to say what we want to hear in the end.

        The issue isn’t one of reliability, it’s of authorship. You seem to hold that something can only be reliable if it is presented exactly as you think it should be. We do not read scripture because of who wrote it. We read it because of the message it contains.

        The Jesus filter takes that message into account. Reading all scripture through the lens of God’s work in Jesus helps it to interpret itself. It is reading Paul through Jesus as well as Torah through Jesus. I don’t think all scripture stands on its own on equal ground with other scripture. Jesus, and the stories about Jesus, help us interpret the rest.

        The early church felt the need to include four different (very different in some pleases) accounts of Jesus in the canon. They thought variety was important, because the central message was what really mattered.

        Too often (and I think this is what’s going on here) we get so wrapped up in the details of how a thing is to miss why it is. The Bible is not internally consistent…it wasn’t meant to be, I think. Its books were not always written by the people who have become associated with it…and I think the ancient church knew this.

        But the message of Jesus and a history of God loving humanity is consistent. Paul didn’t have to write Colossians for me to know that.

        I still consider Colossians…and all the other works…to be authoritative. You can, too, even though it wasn’t written by those whose names are associated with it. It’s not the point of the books; it’s not why you read them in the first place. And if it is, well, then disappointment is bound to happen because the Bible cannot be consistent in the way you want it to be.

        Read the biblical timeline. It will help you to know what scholarship has said about authorship…but it won’t tell you about reliability. We all have to make up our own minds on that.

      • Timothy, you’re right – this issue isn’t one of authorship, it’s one of credibility. If the author lied about Paul (and I struggle to see any other interpretation of 4:18 if your version is correct), then how can I place any reliance on the remainder? The writer is obviously a charlatan and who on earth would trust a letter that lied about a ridiculous detail like that?

        It’s the same with the rest. If the gospel s are not accurate then how can we know what Jesus was like? How can we know he affirmed the OT in Matt 19? How can we know he loves us? How can we know he will judge the world? The very obvious answer is we can’t. We have no idea Jesus loves us other than that the Bible tells us so. And if the Bible is not reliable then we make it subordinate to our view of what should and shouldn’t be in there. Which is pretty much what Mohamed did, and what the church in the dark ages did – only special people could read it. I’m sorry to caricature but that is exactly the result – we can’t trust what is on the page before us. We have no idea which part is god and which part is not.

        If you consider Colossians authoritative as you say do you, how is it that you think Paul didn’t write the letter when the letter says he did?

      • Timothy Brown says:

        Because I understand that it was an ancient practice that was common. It was not lying anymore than Socrates writing in Plato’s name is “lying.”

        And I think we should leave Islam out of this conversation.

        Your measure for credibility is a modern measure places on ancient texts. It will not work the way you want it to.

      • Beastiality was also a common practise – that proves nothing. Since when are Christian standards such as truth defined by the practice of the day?

        What exactly do you mean by “authoritative”?

      • Timothy Brown says:

        That’s not analogous, Clapham. I’ll reiterate that your litmus for “truth” is modern. The texts are ancient. You cannot do that.

        I’m sorry, we’re not going to meet on ideas with this issue. I don’t think there’s much more I can say on this.

      • Because I asked you what authoritative means?

      • Timothy Brown says:

        No, not at all. Just because I can see that we’re coming at this from totally different places. You seem to assume that something is reliable based off of who wrote it. I think something is reliable based off of it’s content.

        That’s a large gap that can’t be bridged.

        Authoritative means just that: holding sway as a norm for faith and practice.

        By your standard, Colossians is an unreliable book. You should throw in there 1st and 2nd Peter, all three letters from “John,” the Gospels of Matthew and John, and 2nd Timothy. All of them, scholars believe, were authored by people other than their namesakes.

        And there’s good evidence that the early church knew this. And they didn’t care. Why? Because while connecting the name of the book to someone historical helped it gain readership, ultimately the message was what mattered. Hence why the “Gospel of Adam,” the “Gospel of Mary,” the “Gospel of the Hebrews,” and other similar books (many of which were widely read in Christian churches) didn’t make it into the canon.

        Finally, there is a good bit of research that can be done without going to school on this sort of thing. I don’t have special knowledge that sets me a part that can’t be gained by the common person. But can you just pick up the Bible and know all this stuff? No. I don’t know of any important work that you could do that with. Context is important!

        Pick up “The Letters of Paul” by Calvin J. Roetzel. Great primer on this topic.

        And with that, truly, I don’t think I have much more to say. Thank you for the conversation.

      • I won’t push this any further beyond this Timothy, but can I point out the very obvious contradiction you’ve made. You said:

        You seem to assume that something is reliable based off of who wrote it. I think something is reliable based off of it’s content.

        Quite the opposite is true – I accept the authorship BECAUSE I consider the content reliable. You claim the content is reliable, yet reject the contents statement of the author. How can this be? Again “I Paul write this greeting with my own hand”. I struggle to see how you can affirm and reject the content at the same time.

        Yes, there is a school that contests authorship. There are schools that contest just about everything in the Bible, including Islamic scholars. That doesn’t make them correct. And the school that contests authorship has (as far as I am aware) always been in the minority, and is not the orthodox position.

        Timothy, as a brother, I beg you to consider the evidence for the orthodox position, and my statement above about what contemporary (and in my opinion, speculative) claims about authorship do in undermining the reliability of the content and the core truths of the Bible.

        Best regards,

        CCT

      • Timothy Brown says:

        I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken. It’s not the minority position. Scholarship is pretty settled on this point.

        You lack an understanding of history and ancient literature. You can do some research on this; it would help. The “contradiction” you so kindly point out is not a contradiction if you understand the practices of ancient literature.

        I’ve given up the need to be correct on most things in life. But don’t question my scholarship on my own writing simply because you haven’t done your homework.

        Read a scholar. Do some research.

        And, again, Islam doesn’t need to be brought into the conversation.

      • This is a quote from the preface to the NIV Study Bible on it. And the ESV is no different. I simply quote these because there are two very eminent panels of scholars behind these editorials. *panels* of scholars.

        “That Colossians is a genuine letter of Paul is usually not disputed. In the early church all who speak of the subject of authorship ascribe it to Paul.”

        The debate about authorship arose in the 19th century related to the gnostic heresy which has been refuted. So I’m sorry Timothy, it is the minority, it’s not orthodox and its not the traditional, history based, view of the church. And how could it be because it would make 4v18 a blatant lie?

      • Timothy Brown says:

        Clapham,

        We’re not going to see eye to eye on it. The NIV and the ESV are centrist positions, but not “majority” positions. The footnotes in any Bible version are for light study, not in depth work.

        Just as you encouraged me to consider the “orthodox” position (although there isn’t one “orthodox” position), I encourage you to do some homework. The authors use of Christology, apostleship, and eschatology are vastly different than the undisputed Pauline letters. The Greek phrases Paul loves are not there…and in their place are altogether new Greek phrases.

        Look, it’s settled scholarship to consider this a deutero-Pauline text. Which simply means: we don’t know if Paul wrote it, and there is good reason to doubt he did.

        And the “blatant lie” that you continue to claim is there, isn’t, when you consider the context of history and literature. But I can’t continue to repeat my position ad infinitum.

        But we don’t need to agree on this. It’s not that important in the grand scheme of things. And it’s important to note that Christians hold a variety of views on this.

      • Timothy Brown says:

        And I know it’s confusing to hear someone would write a piece of work and claim it is written by someone else. But it was a common practice in ancient days, especially if you greatly admired the person or were a disciple of there’s.

        There are many books in scripture associated with people who never wrote them. Matthew was most certainly not written by the disciple Matthew, nor was John. Read the Biblical timeline I provide from September of this year. It gives a little explanation.

        Finally, I don’t think there’s some sort of special knowledge you need to read scripture. As I say in my piece, anyone can read it for devotion. But I do think that there’s certain study that should go on to read it for scholarship…like discipline.

        And I want to reiterate, my opinions are not new or something I’ve concocted. Faithful people have been reading, preaching, and studying this way for centuries.

      • Yes, that’s true. But the mere fact that something has been practiced for a long time doesn’t make it correct. The vast majority of scholarly opinion lies on the side of orthodox attribution of authorship and of inerrancy. There have been minority views all through history and they have faced the same problem –if it’s not reliable, what is?

        And again, let us be crystal clear about what Colossians 4v18 says: “I, Paul, write this greeting by my own hand”. If that was not written by Paul then the author is, IMHO, lying through his teeth. Please correct me if I am wrong.

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