Defining “Scripture” in the 21st Century

On January 27 we will address a passage that is often cited by fundamentalist Christians to justify their continued use of repressive texts that support their socially conservative point of view. The New Revised Standard Version of Second Timothy 3:16-17 reads:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (NRSV).

Codex Sinaiticus
2 Timothy 3:16-17

The problem with the fundamentalist reading of this text is that it assumes a definition of “scripture” that is not consistent with the historical context in which these verses were written. When this text was written, the early church had not yet decided what would be the final list of scriptural books. The biblical books still circulated as individual scrolls, not a single book called “the Bible.” In fact the second letter of Timothy in which this passage appears was not itself yet accepted as “scripture.”

In this context, reading these words to mean “Everything in the Bible is inspired by God…” was simply not possible. In stead, this text was an attempt to answer the questions, “What should be a part of our scriptures? How can we decide what is inspired by God and what is not?”

On Sunday we will look at difficulties in translating the Greek text of these verses shown in the image above. We will examine both what this text meant for its first readers and what it should mean for us today.

A Book on Women as Ministers in Early Christianity.

when-women-were-priests-womens-leadership-in-early-karen-jo-torjesen-paperback-cover-artThe discussion this Sunday may leave you with some questions about the historical role of women as ministers in the earliest Christian churches. Here is a book that you may find helpful in exploring further information on that topic:

Karen J. Torjesen, When Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity.

Two web resources added on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Today I added links to two online resources that you can use to find and studying the biblical texts that will be used in hundreds of thousands of churches around the world on the coming Sunday. You can find the links in the sidebar to the right under “Websites you may find helpful.”

The two I added today are Revised Common Lectionary (Vanderbilt University) and The Text This Week. Either one will show you the texts that will be used. The “Text This Week” site also provides resources for developing sermons, bible studies, etc, and even provides graphic resources that can be used in church newsletters or other publications.

Spreading the Word about the Class

I would like to encourage you to talk with your friends about this class. One way you can get them interested is to give them the website address:

Encourage them to take a look at what we are doing. Your friends are welcome to join the class even if they are not able to come on the first Sunday. Learning in community is wonderful, and we would love for you to share the experience with your friends and neighbors.

What will we do in January?

On January 13, 20, and 27 we will explore uncomfortable passages in scripture looking at how a progressive church can deal with these texts. To see what we will be doing, choose Talking about the Bible without Condemnation from the options under the big picture above.

Dec. 2014 update: The menu has moved to the sidebar on the left. The link is no longer found under the picture above.