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Authority

Introduction:

On this web page we are going to present different articles and their views on authority of the Bible. As usual we are only going to paste excerpts and encourage you to secure the different resources and see the whole article in their complete context.

The owners of this website believe in the inspiration, authority and inerrancy of the Bible. We do not limit any of those facts about the Bible and believe that the Bible is divinely written, using human hands but not human origins
 

#1. MCCLINTOCK & STRONG’S CYCLOPEDIA Volume 1 — A-B- Ages Electronic Edition

 (1.) in matters religious and ecclesiastical, an assumed right of dictation, attributed to certain fathers, councils, or church courts. On this subject Bishop Hoadley writes: “Authority is the greatest and most irreconcilable enemy to truth and argumlent that this world ever furnished. All the sophistry — all the color of plausibility — all the artifice and cunning of the subtlest disputer in the world may be laid open and turned to the advantage of that very truth which they are designed to hide; but against authority there is no defense.”

He shows that it was authority which crushed the noble sentiments of Socrates and others, and that by authority the Jews and heathens combated the truth of the Gospel; and that, when Christians increased into a majority, and came to think the same method to be the only proper one for the advantage of their cause which had been the enemy and destroyer of it, then it was the authority of Christians, which, by degrees, not only laid waste the honor of Christianity, but well-nigh extinguished it among men. It was authority which would have prevented all reformation where it is, and which has put a barrier against it wherever it is not. The remark of Charles II. is worthy of notice-that those of the established faith make much of the authority of the church in their disputes with dissenters, but that they take it all away when they deal with papists.

 (2.) In a proper sense, by the “authority of the church” is meant either the power’ residing generally in the whole body of the faithful to execute the trust committed by Christ to his church, or the particular power residing in certain official members of that body. The first-named authority is vested in the clergy and laity jointly; the latter in the clergy alone. In the interpretation of Scripture for any particular church, that church’s authority does not belong to all divines or “distinguished theologians” who may be members of the church, but only to the authorized formularies. Single writers of every age are to be taken as expressing only their individual opinions.

The agreement of these opinions at any one period, or for any lengthened space of time, may and must be used as proof to ourselves, privately, as to the predominant sentiments of the church at that time, but no opinions can be quoted as deciding authoritatively any disputed question. The universal church deserves deference in all controversies of faith; and every particular church has a right to decree such rights and ceremonies as are not contrary to God’s written word; but no church has a right to enforce any thing as necessary for salvation, unless it can be shown so to be by the express declaration of Holy Scripture
 
 

#2. INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA VOL. 1 A-AZZUR Ages Electronic Ed.

The term is of manifold and ambiguous meaning. The various ideas of authority fall into two main classes: as external or public tribunal or standard, which therefore in the nature of the case can only apply to the outward expressions of religion; and as immanent principle which governs the most secret movements of the soul’s life….

All religion involves a certain attitude of thought and will toward God and the Universe. The feeling element is also present, but that is ignored in theories of external authority. All religion then involves certain ideas or beliefs about God, and conduct corresponding to them, but ideas may be true or false, and conduct right or wrong. Men need to know what is true, that they may do that which is right.

They need some test or standard or court of appeal which distinguishes and enforces the truth; forbids the wrong and commands the right. As in all government there is a legislative and an executive function, the one issuing out of the other, so in every kind of religious authority recognized as such, men require that it should tell them what ideas they ought to believe and what deeds to perform.

In this general sense authority is recognized in every realm of life, even beyond that which is usually called religious life. Science builds up its system in conformity with natural phenomena. Art has its ideals of beauty. Politics seeks to realize some idea of the state. Metaphysics reconstructs the universe in conformity with some principle of truth or reality…

It is a problem involved in the difficulties of all ultimate problems, and all argument about it is apt to move in a circle. For the ultimate must bear witness of its own ultimacy, the absolute of its own absoluteness, and authority of its own sovereignty. If there were a court of appeal or a standard of reference to which anything called ultimate, absolute and supreme, could apply for its credentials, it would therefore become relative and subordinate to that other criterion.

There is a sense in which Mr. Balfour’s saying is true, “that authority is dumb in the presence of argument.” No process of mediate reasoning can establish it, for no premise can be found from which it issues as a conclusion. It judges all things, but is judged of none. It is its own witness and judge. All that reason can say about it is the dictum of Paxmenides: “it is.”..

External theories generally involve what is called a deistic conception of God. Spiritualistic theories of authority correspond to theistic views of God. If He is immanent as well as transcendent, He speaks directly to men, and has no need of intermediaries. Pantheism results in a naturalistic theory of truth.

The mind of God is the law of Nature. But pantheism in practice tends to become polytheism, and then to issue in a crude anarchy which is the denial of all authority and truth. But within Christendom the problem of authority lies between those who agree in believing in one God, who is personal, transcendent and to some extent immanent. The differences on these points are really consequences of differences of views as to His mode of self-communication….

A summary of the Biblical account of authority is given in <580101>Hebrews 1:1;

“God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in a Son [RVm].”

Behind all persons and institutions stands God, who reveals His mind and exercises His sovereignty in many ways, through many persons and institutions, piecemeal and progressively, until His final revelation of His mind and will culminates in Jesus Christ….
 
 

#3. Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Authority of the Bible. The authority of the Bible follows naturally from its inspiration. It is implied by its title, “the Word of God.” It is the written record of the Word of God that came to prophets, apostles, and other spokesmen, and that “became flesh” in Jesus Christ. Christians believe Jesus Christ was the Word of God in a unique sense. Through Jesus, God communicated the perfect revelation of Himself to mankind (Heb. 1:1–3). For Christians the authority of the Bible is related to the authority of Christ. The Old Testament was the Bible that Jesus used—the authority to which He made constant appeal and whose teachings He followed and proclaimed. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and led away to His execution, He submitted with the words, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). He saw His mission in the world as a fulfillment of the predictions of the Old Testament.

The New Testament presents the record of Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection; a narrative of the beginning of the Christian church with the coming of the Holy Spirit; and the story of the extension of the gospel and the planting of the church during the following generation. It also contains the written teachings of Jesus’ apostles and other early Christians who applied the principles of His teaching and redemptive work to their lives…
 
 

#4.Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Re 22:17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Conservative. The theological position which recognizes the full truth and authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice and in so doing emphasizes the preservation of the essential doctrines of Christianity.
 
 

#5. Geisler, N. L. (1976). Christian apologetics (pp. 353–354). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Christ and the apostles did much of their teaching from the Old Testament, but what is sometimes overlooked is that they also taught a great deal about the Old Testament. Both direct and indirect references unmistakably manifest their affirmation that the Old Testament writings are the inscripturated Word of God.1 If Jesus did indeed teach that the Jewish Scriptures were the inspired Word of God, then on his confirmed divine authority it can be established that the Old Testament is the written revelation of God.

Since we have already argued for both the reliability of the New Testament and the integrity of Christ’s apostles as eyewitness reporters of what Jesus taught (Chapter 16), we need not separate here the words of Jesus from those of the apostles for two reasons. First, the testimony of the apostles about the Old Testament does not differ from Christ’s nor does it add in kind to Jesus’ view. Second, according to the confirmed integrity of the apostolic witness, they were not giving merely their own personal views but were expressing what Jesus himself taught (cf. John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 1:1).

The Old Testament Teaching About Its Own Authority. From the very beginning, the Old Testament writings of Moses were held to be sacred and were stored in the ark of God (Deut. 10:2) and later in the tabernacle (Deut. 6:2). Prophetic writings were added to this collection as they were written (Josh. 24:26; I Sam. 10:25; etc.). Moses claimed that his writings were from God (cf. Exod. 20:1; Lev. 1:1; Num. 1:1; Deut. 1:3), and the remainder of the Old Testament recognizes the divine authority of Moses’ writings (Josh. 1:8; I Sam. 12:6; Dan. 9:12; Neh. 13:1). After Moses came a succession of prophets who claimed “thus saith the Lord.” Near the end of Old Testament history there were collections of “Moses and the prophets” held as divinely authoritative (Dan. 9:2; Zech. 7:12). The acknowledgment of the divine authority of Moses and the prophets’ writings continued through the period between the Testaments (cf. 2 Macc. 15:9) and into the Qumran literature (Manual of Discipline 1:3; 8:15).

The New Testament Teaching About the Divine Authority of the Old Testament. There are numerous ways that Jesus and the New Testament writers indicated their belief that the Old Testament was God’s Word. Sometimes they referred to the Old Testament as a whole; other times they mentioned specific sections or books, and sometimes even words, tenses, or parts of words as possessing the authority of God…

In this sample listing several things should be noted. First, most of the major Old Testament events are taught to be historically true by Jesus or the New Testament writers. Second, often the passages are cited with emphatic parallel to events which Christ claimed to be historical facts (see Matt. 12:40). Third, sometimes Jesus clearly affirmed the plain historical truth of his teachings on the authenticity of those Old Testament persons or events (Matt. 22:32). Jesus once challenged a Jewish leader by saying, “If I tell you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).

Sometimes the New Testament hinges the authority of its teaching on the very tense of a verb or a single letter of a word. Jesus taught the doctrine of the resurrection on the present tense of the Old Testament phrase “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matt. 22:32). Paul contended that the singular form of the “offspring of Abraham” gave it messianic significance (Gal. 3:16). Even granting hyperbole for the sake of emphasis, it is significant to the complete authority of every part of the Old Testament that Jesus proclaimed that “not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter of the law would pass away until all is fulfilled,” literally, “not an iota, not a dot” (Matt. 5:18).
 
 
#6. Hayford, J. W. (1998). Ministering In the Spirit and Strength of Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

  One of the tasks of a Christian leader is to teach “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10). In order to teach “sound doctrine,” pastors, Bible teachers and other Christian leaders must recognize the full inerrant authority of the Bible and live under the full authority of the Bible in every area of life. Sadly, there has been an attempt to undermine the authority and inerrancy of Scripture within the evangelical community. The result has been an attempt to accommodate the Scriptures to the world spirit of this age and the philosophies and belief systems which are currently fashionable.

  When the church begins to violate Paul’s admonishment to “teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). then we begin to see the results of such accommodation within the Christian culture. Easy divorce, adultery, theistic evolution (which attempts to mix the theories of Darwin with the Scripture), false teaching, sexual immorality, abortion, and the acceptance of homosexuality are all symptoms of cultural accommodation and a weakened view of Scripture.
 

#7. Hayford, J. W. (Ed.). (1997). Spirit filled life study Bible (electronic ed., 2 Ti 3:12). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

3:16 The Divine Inspiration of the Bible, THE WORD OF GOD. The absolute authority of the Bible over our lives is based in our conviction that this Book does not merely contain the Word of God, but that it is the Word of God in its sum and in its parts.  This text testifies to this, describing the actual process of this inspiration (inbreathing of life):  1)  It is the word of the Holy Spirit.  Theopneustos (Greek), translated “inspiration of God,” literally means “God-breathed.”  This describes the source of the whole Bible’s derivation (that is, “all Scripture”) as transcendent of human inspiration.  The Bible is not the product of elevated human consciousness or enlightened human intellect, but is directly “breathed” from God Himself.  2) 2 Pet. 1:20, 21 elaborates this truth, and adds that none of what was given was merely the private opinion of the writer (v. 20) and that each writer involved in the production of the Holy Scriptures was “moved by” (literally, “being borne along”) the Holy Spirit.  This does not mean that the writers were merely robots, seized upon by God’s power to write automatically without their conscious participation.  God does not override those gifts of intellect and sensitivity that He has given His creatures.  (Beware of all instances where individuals claim to “automatically” write anything at any time, for the Holy Spirit never functions that way.)  3) 1 Cor. 2:10-13 expands on this process by which the revelation of the Holy Scriptures was given.  V. 13 says that even the words used in the giving of the Bible (not just the ideas, but the precise terminology) were planned by the Holy Spirit, who deployed the respective authors of the Bible books to write, “comparing spiritual things with  spiritual” (literally, “matching spiritual words to spiritual ideas”).  This biblical view of the Bible’s derivation is called the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, meaning every word is inspired by the Holy Spirit
 

#8. Sproul, R. C. (2009). Can I Trust the Bible? (Vol. 2, pp. 6–8). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

  We affirm that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the church is subordinate to that of Scripture. We deny that church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.

Article II of the Chicago Statement reinforces Article I and goes into more detail concerning the matters it addresses. Article II has in view the classical Protestant principle of sola Scriptura, which speaks of the unique authority of the Bible to bind the consciences of men. The affirmation of Article II speaks of the Scriptures as “the supreme written norm.” At the summit, there was lengthy discussion concerning the word supreme; alternative words, such as ultimate and only, were suggested and subsequently eliminated from the text. The question had to do with the fact that other written documents are important to the life of the church. For example, church creeds and confessions form the basis of subscription and unity of faith in many different Christian denominations and communities. Such creeds and confessions have a kind of normative authority within a given Christian body and have the effect of binding consciences within that particular context. However, it is a classic tenet of Protestants to recognize that all such creeds and confessions are fallible and cannot fully and finally bind the conscience of an individual believer. Only the Word of God has the kind of authority that can bind the consciences of men forever. So while the articles acknowledge that there are other written norms recognized by different bodies of Christians, insofar as they are true, those written norms are derived from and are subordinate to the supreme written norm that is Holy Scripture.

The denial clearly spells out that no church creed, council, or declaration has authority greater than or equal to that of the Bible. Again, any idea that tradition or church officers have authority equal to Scripture is repudiated by this statement. The question of a Christian’s obedience to authority structures apart from Scripture was a matter of great discussion with regard to this article. For example, the Bible itself exhorts us to obey the civil magistrates. We are certainly willing to subject ourselves to our own church confessions and to the authority structures of our ecclesiastical bodies. But the thrust of this article is to indicate that whatever lesser authorities may exist, they never carry the authority of God Himself. There is a sense in which all authority in this world is derived from and dependent on the authority of God. God and God alone has intrinsic authority. That intrinsic authority is given to the Bible, since it is God’s Word.

Various Christian bodies have defined the extent of civil authority and ecclesiastical authority in different ways. For example, in Reformed churches, the authority of the church is viewed as ministerial and declarative rather than ultimate and intrinsic. God and God alone has the absolute right to bind the consciences of men. Our consciences are justly bound to lesser authorities only when they are in conformity to the Word of God.
 
 
#9. Hayford, J. W., & McGuire, P. (1994). People of the Covenant: God’s New Covenant for Today. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson

In understanding the concept of the authority of the Bible, it is important to understand the following concepts:

Cultural relativism is a term that denotes there is no right or wrong in the universe. There are no absolutes. In other words, everything is relative. This belief system stems from the idea that there is no God and that man is the center of the universe. It is an expression of modern humanism which flows out of the existentialist thought of men, such as philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. In this view of things, absolutely everything is up for questioning, including the authority of the Scripture.

Absolutes is a term that conveys the idea that in the universe there are fixed laws that are not subject to human opinion. In other words, there is a right and a wrong. God’s Word is absolute. While humanists would declare that there are no absolutes, those embracing a Judeo-Christian worldview believe that there are absolutes. There is a right and a wrong, apart from what is popular at the moment.

Final reality describes the fact that the universe and reality exist in a certain form and are not subject to popular opinion. In other words, final reality is what is real and true. The fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is final reality. Whether or not people choose to accept this does not alter the reality that it happened. That is final reality.

The following questions will help to give us a clearer understanding of God’s Word as the final authority:

The Bible is to be the final authority in our lives. That means that ultimately I will choose to believe and obey what the Bible says, not the opinions of men. The reason for this belief in the Bible as the final authority is not that we choose to be religious legalists whose minds are shut from other opinions or that we are frightened of creative thinking. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God and divinely inspired. Therefore, we choose to believe it above the opinions, philosophies, and writings of men, which constantly change.

I remember studying psychology at a university. I was amazed to find that every major psychological theorist would contradict or disagree with his predecessors. Since psychology was being taught as a science, I couldn’t understand why its proponents disagreed with one another. The reason they did is that their theories were based on their subjective belief systems. In contrast, the Bible is based on what God has to say and not on the opinions of men.

Psalm 119:89–91 states this truth: “Forever, O LORD, Your Word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are Your servants.” Here we see that the Bible, God’s Word, is settled. It is final reality. In other words, it is true—not just in religious or spiritual matters. It is true in every area of life because God created all of life and the universe. He understands how it functions. We must get away from the notion that somehow God is intimidated by computers, technology, DNA molecules, sex, and so on. God is the Creator of humankind and the universe. He is light years beyond our present level of scientific and social development. “Our Lord is often represented as a remnant of ancient and long-dead Middle Eastern society when, in truth, he is more current and viable than anything our computers, gene splicing, high-definition television, fiber optics, and nuclear energy could imagine or produce.”1

It is important to understand that Christianity is Truth and not a religion! God’s Word is not just true because you and I choose to believe in it. It is true, because on an objective scientific basis it simply is “true.” When we understand this reality, it should give us confidence in our daily living and relating to our society.

The following questions should help us to understand why God’s Word is the final authority in life.
 

#10 Geisler, N. L. (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics (pp. 398–399). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Reliable but Not Inerrant. Kahler did reject verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture (see BIBLE, EVIDENCE OF), which he called an “authoritarian faith” (Kahler, 72). He derided the idea that only the inerrancy of Scripture regarding every incidental matter could guarantee its trustworthiness about the central point. He believed we should “approach the Bible without detailed theories about its nature and origin.” The Gospel tradition was “inherently fallible” and the Bible as a book “contains” God’s revelation (Kahler, 91, 106, 112–14).

Nevertheless he maintained that the Bible is the only fully sufficient means of coming to the “safe harbor” of faith in the living Christ. For “the more converse a person has with the Bible itself, the more he finds that the drawing power of the Savior merges with the authority of the Bible” (ibid., 76). He added, “We have been hasty in following Lessing’s counsel to read the Bible as we read other books” (ibid., 123).

According to Kahler, the Bible presents a generally reliable picture of the historical Christ. “The biblical picture of Christ, so lifelike and unique beyond imagination, is not a poetic idealization originating in the human mind. The reality of Christ himself has left its ineffaceable impress upon this picture” (ibid., 79–90, 95). This impression of Christ is once again found in the “big picture” of the Bible, not the minute one:

  Nowhere in the Gospels do we detect a rigorous striving for accuracy of observation or for preservation of detail. . . . Nevertheless, from these fragmentary traditions, these half-understood recollections, these portrayals colored by the writers’ individual personalities, these heartfelt confessions, these sermons proclaiming him as Savior, there gazes upon us a vivid and coherent image of a Man, an image we never fail to recognize. In his incomparable deeds and life (including his resurrection appearances) this Man has engraved his image on the mind and memory of his followers with such sharp and deeply etched features that it could be neither obliterated nor distorted. [ibid., 141–42]

This is “a tangible human life, portrayed in a rich and concrete though brief and concise manner.” Once we get past the demand for an infallible biblical record, we can appreciate even the trustworthiness of the legends, so far as this is conceivable” (ibid.). This is not a fundamentalist’s view of Scripture, but it is far from the radical liberal who denies the basic historicity of the Gospels.

While Kahler upheld the general reliability of Scripture, he did not place his faith in the historical. Faith is generated in the heart by God. He wrote, “We want to make absolutely clear that ultimately we believe in Christ, not on account of any authority, but because he himself evokes such faith from us” (ibid., 87). The independent faith of the New Testament, was in Kahler’s mind expressed by the Samaritans in John 4:42: “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (ibid., 76–77).
 

#11 Backlund, K. (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Patriarchs, Before the Flood. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

The historicity of Gen 1–11—including the genealogy of Gen 5—is debated. According to Hill, incredulity regarding Gen 5—among other passages—has become, “one of the greatest stumbling blocks to faith in the Bible” (Hill, “Making Sense,” 239–51.) This is likely because of the belief that a nonliteral reading of the Bible is inconsistent with doctrines of inspiration or inerrancy (Ryrie, Basic Theology, 77).

Most Christians throughout history have considered the genealogy of Gen 5 to represent an accurate historical record. The New Testament reflects this understanding by mentioning some of the antediluvian patriarchs, implying that the authors consider them to be real historical figures and consider Gen 5 to be neither fictitious nor metaphorical (Matt 24:37; Luke 3:38; Rom 5:14; Heb 11:5–7; 1 Pet 3:20; 1 John 3:12; Jude 1:14). A literal reading of the genealogies in the Old Testament was the basis for chronologies of the earth—the most famous perhaps being that of Bishop James Ussher, who concluded that the earth was created around 4000 BC. Wenham argues that Gen 5 records the names of “real people who lived and died” (Wenham, “Genesis,” 65). Similarly, Atkinson argues that this genealogy “is about world history,” not simply a mythical background for Israel (Atkinson, Message, 120).

Many scholars, however, find the longevity of the individuals in the Noahic line to be implausible and subsequently reject the traditional literal understanding of the biblical account (Etz, “Numbers of Genesis V,” 171–89). Since the 19th century, a number of alternative interpretations of Gen 5 have been suggested that do not accept the genealogy as a literal historical account (Harper, “Long Lived Antediluvians,” 326–35). Some of these explanations are:

  •      Genesis 5 is an entirely mythical literary composition.

  •      The genealogy is not exhaustive, mentioning only selected individuals.

  •      The names in Gen 5 do not represent individuals, but rather clans.

  •      The word “year” refers to a span of time other than 365 days.

  •      The number of years given for each individual has a historical basis but is ultimately the result of some sort of extrapolation or multiplication.

Scholars who offer nonliteral interpretations do not necessarily intend to challenge the inspiration, inerrancy, or authority of the Bible. For example, Hill asserts that passages such as Gen 5 were written with as much of a theological objective as a historical one, and that the original readers of Genesis would not have understood the genealogy of Gen 5 to be a literal historical record (Hill, “Making Sense,” 239–51). Therefore, if the authorial intent was not to compose an exhaustive, literal genealogy, then the authority and integrity of the Bible are not challenged by reading the passage in question nonliterally.

Dumbrell does not feel compelled to either affirm a literal reading or to offer an alternative explanation, asserting that, “no convincing answer has been found to the question of longevity in the Genesis lists” (Dumbrell, Faith of Israel, 24).
 

#12 Shanks, H. (Ed.). (2004). BR 13:03.

Today many conservatives stoutly defend the authority of the Bible on the basis of biblical literalism, believing that the Bible contains the literally inspired words of God. But this popular view fails to account adequately for the Bible’s very human words, which reflect the limitations of human speech, the influence of the cultural environment and the sociological situation of ancient Israel (Hebrew Bible) or of the early church (New Testament). Indeed, many literary critics have engaged in “deconstructing” the biblical text, showing that these texts were composed to justify existing social values or national aspirations and, in sociological perspective, to support the “ideology” of those who held power. These critics engage in a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” approaching the Bible with a wariness toward the hidden sociological agenda of texts that claim to be the word of God.

This critical approach has helped us understand the human, cultural and sociological dimensions of Scripture. The Bible is composed in human languages: Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, with their respective strengths and weaknesses. It reflects patriarchal society, with its sexual mores and particular understanding of the roles of men and women. With its “three-storied view of the universe” (heaven, flat earth, underworld), the Bible reflects a prescientific cosmological worldview. When people have ascribed divine authority to any of these human aspects of scripture, the Bible has been used oppressively, as when the Catholic church forced Galileo to recant his scientific views or when the Bible was used to sanction slavery.

The fundamental weakness in this critical approach, however, is that it fails to start with a community of faith for whom the Bible is sacred scripture, not ordinary literature (such as Shakespeare) that is studied in an academy or university. When approached from a standpoint of faith, whether in the Jewish or Christian community (perhaps Moslem should be added), the interpreter engages in what has been called “a hermeneutic of trust,” expecting the biblical text to mediate God’s judgment on our thoughts and ways and God’s grace for guidance and renewal.1

This hermeneutic, or mode of interpretation, understands that much of scripture speaks to the imagination in poetic or narrative style. As Catholic theologian Karl Rahner once remarked, “The poetic words and the poetic ear” are prerequisites for hearing the word of God in the human words of Scripture.”2 Even the biblical description of the Temple and its rites (Exodus 25–40, Leviticus), as the Jewish scholar Jon Levenson observes, “can be conceived as the means for spiritual ascent from the lower to the higher realms, from a position distant from God to one in His very presence.”3

Some of the great scriptural interpreters of the past (for example, the church father John Chrysostom [344/354–407]) spoke of God’s condescension to a humanity limited by its language and social relations. The Greek word for it was synkatabasis and the Latin was accomodatio—terms that refer to God’s “stooping,” as it were, to meet human beings at their own level, just as a parent gets down on the floor and “lisps” to a child.4 This view is echoed in the foreword to The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, where the editors speak of “the marvelous condescension of God in transmitting His word in human language.”5

God’s condescension, however, should not be taken to establish norms that endorse patriarchal society, sanction war as a political strategy, or validate prescientific views of the universe. When we were children, we spoke, reasoned and acted like children (see 1 Corinthians 13:11), but now that we are mature and enlightened we are no longer bound by earlier limitations. It is therefore fitting to accompany the reading of scripture with a “targum” (to use a Jewish term) or free translation (see Nehemiah 8:8) so that modern people might understand thesense of the original text. That is the task of the rabbi, minister or commentator.

In the community of faith the Bible has a privileged status. Modern translations appropriately attempt to render the biblical text in language that is grammatically accurate, esthetically pleasing and, as much as possible, inclusive of women and men. It would be a mistake, however, to rewrite the Bible in modern terms or revise the canon so that it contains other books written down through the centuries. From the faith standpoint of the believing and worshiping community, the Bible is the “Word of God in human words,” to use a traditional formulation. Its down-to-earth stories, even those that reflect the seamy side of life, enable us to see ourselves as in a mirror. Its theological diversity enables us to compare one viewpoint with another, scripture criticizing scripture, as we search for divine guidance on the meaning of life and our human responsibility.

When we read with a “hermeneutic of trust,” to allude again to the insightful essay by Richard Hays, the Bible is the medium of the judgment and the grace of God. The authority of the Bible lies in the Bible itself, when read in a community of faith where the Holy Spirit enables the sacred text to come to life with contemporary meaning and power.
 

#13 Shanks, H. (Ed.). (2004). BR 13:01.

In our time various interpreters have proposed other principles of selection, such as the experience of the poor and oppressed. A favorite part of the Bible for liberation theologians in Latin America and elsewhere is the Book of Exodus, or at least the first 20 chapters. In their view the story of God’s deliverance of slaves from bondage is not just about the rescue of ancient Hebrews from state slavery, but is also a paradigm of God’s will to liberate all the poor from oppression by the rich and powerful.1 On the other hand, those passages in the Bible that support the “establishment,” such as the story of God’s selection of David and the covenant with the Davidic dynasty, represent a kind of “fall from grace” and are not helpful in ascertaining what God is doing in the world.

Tremendous theological implications have been drawn from this selective reading of the Exodus story and related passages (many of them in the prophets) that demand social justice. The great contribution of the Latin American church, it has been said, is this discovery of a Bible within the Bible, which shows that God is not completely above the fray but “takes sides, freeing the poor and oppressed.”2 Specifically, this means that the Latin American church “must commit itself to the preferential option for the poor.”3

This is a powerful, though one-sided, interpretation of the Exodus story. The story cannot be separated from the Sinai covenant, in which God’s particular people (“my people,” Exodus 3:7) pledges itself to serve God by obeying the revealed Torah (Exodus 24:7). God’s liberation was not complete until a band of state slaves was shaped into a covenant community regulated by “statutes and ordinances” (Exodus 31:3–8). Their service of God was, paradoxically, freedom.

The feminist movement has thrown a burst of new light on scripture, and even revolutionized biblical studies, by reading the Bible anew based on women’s experience. Some have gone so far as to reject the Bible as hopelessly androcentric; others have drawn attention to neglected texts and have creatively reinterpreted familiar texts.4 Above all, they have demanded and explored the kind of theology that is based on God’s creation of humanity, “male and female,” with the implication that feminine and masculine metaphors should be used in talking to, or about, God.5

From a feminist standpoint a new trajectory through the Bible may be traced, differing from the standard lectionaries. Much will be left out, but—as Phyllis Trible remarks at the end of an exploratory essay—there will be enough for a multitude of readers, as in Jesus’ parable of the five loaves and two fishes (Matthew 14:13–21). And “when round, rightly blessed, and fed upon, these remnant traditions provide more than enough sustenance for life.”6

I have learned a great deal about the Bible from these various attempts to find a Bible within the Bible, especially feminist interpretations. The problem I have is that the authority of the Bible is not based on the Bible itself, but on the Bible as read in a particular interpretive community. Those who are not members of the particular community, or who do not share the group experience, feel they are on the outside. The question, then, is whether there is a more inclusive lectionary, one that is addressed to all peoples, rich and poor, male and female, Occidental and Oriental, etc. Does God speak through the Bible as a whole—through all of its trajectories? On that difficult question we shall reflect in the next column, as we consider the Bible as the “word of God in human words.
 

#14 Geisler, N. L. (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics (p. 93). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Jesus affirmed the Old Testament to be the Word of God and promised to guide his disciples to know all truth. Jesus claimed for the Bible:

    1.      Divine authority—Matthew 4:4, 7, 10

    2.      Indestructibility—Matthew 5:17–18

    3.      Infallibility or unbreakability—John 10:35

    4.      Ultimate supremacy—Matthew 15:3, 6

    5.      Factual inerrancy—Matthew 22:29; John 17:17

    6.      Historical reliability—Matthew 12:40, 24:37–38

    7.      Scientific accuracy—Matthew 19:4–5; John 3:12

The authority of Jesus confirms the authority of the Bible. If he is the Son of God (see CHRIST, DEITY OF), then the Bible is the Word of God. Indeed, if Jesus were merely a prophet, then the Bible still is confirmed to be the Word of God through his prophetic office. Only if one rejects the divine authority of Christ can he consistently reject the divine authority of the Scriptures. If Jesus is telling the truth, then it is true that the Bible is God’s Word.

Manuscript Evidence. New Testament manuscripts are now available from the third and fourth centuries, and fragments that may date back as far as the late first century. From these through the medieval centuries, the text remained substantially the same. There are earlier and more manuscripts for the New Testament than for any other book from the ancient world. While most books exist in ten or twenty manuscripts dating from a thousand years or more after they were composed, one nearly entire manuscript, the Chester Beatty Papyri, was copied in about 250. Another manuscript with the majority of the New Testament, called Vaticanus, is dated to about 325.

The Biblical Authors. Whatever weaknesses they may have had, the biblical authors are universally presented in Scripture as scrupulously honest, and this lends credibility to their claim, for the Bible is not shy to admit the failures of his people.

They taught the highest standard of ethics, including the obligation to always tell the truth. Moses’ law commanded: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). Indeed, only one “whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart” (Ps. 15:2), who “has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow-man, [and] who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts” were considered righteous.

The New Testament also exalts integrity, commanding: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). The person who “loves and practices falsehood” will be excluded from heaven, according to Revelation 22:15. Absolute truthfulness was extolled as a cardinal Christian virtue.

The biblical writers not only taught the highest moral standards, including truthfulness, but they exemplified them in their lives. A true prophet could not be bought off. As one prophet who was tempted confessed, “I could not go beyond the command of the Lord” (Num. 22:18). What God spoke, the prophet had to declare, regardless of the consequences. Many prophets were threatened and even martyred but never recanted the truth. Jeremiah was put into prison for his unwelcome prophecies (Jer. 32:2; 37:15) and even threatened with death (Jer. 26:8, 24). Others were killed (Matt. 23:34–36; Heb. 11:32–38). Peter and the eleven apostles (Acts 5), as well as Paul (Acts 28), were all imprisoned and most were eventually martyred for their testimony (2 Tim. 4:6–8; 2 Peter 1:14). Indeed, being “faithful unto death” was an earmark of early Christian conviction (Rev. 2:10).

People sometimes die for false causes they believe to be true, but few die for what they know to be false. Yet the biblical witnesses, who were in a position to know what was true, died for proclaiming that their message came from God. This is at least prima facie evidence that the Bible is what they claimed it to be—the Word of God.
 

#15. Gerstner, J. H. (2014). Reasons for Faith (pp. 85–88). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

But wait,” says every keen observer, “this is circular reasoning of the most obvious sort.” And we admit that, at first glance, our reasoning does seem exposed to just this criticism, which, if it is valid, demolishes the whole argument. If the stricture stands, the reasoning must fall, and what appeared to be an argument of infinite force will actually have no force at all.

If, however, we look again, we shall perhaps see that there is no circularity in the reasoning. We are not arguing from the authority of the Bible to the authority of Christ and from thence to the authority of the Bible. If we were, we would be in a vicious and futile circle. We do not beg the question by beginning with the assumption that the Bible is inspired, proceed to prove from that that Christ is divine, and then return fortified by His authority to prove that the Bible is inspired. Rather, we begin with the Bible without assuming its inspiration. This is the very point in question, and we do not beg it at the outset. We begin with the Bible, not as inspired, but merely as a trustworthy document historically speaking.

Nor is there any reason to apologize for assuming the basic trustworthiness of the New Testament records. There was a time when they were challenged, but that time is long and permanently past. The Bible has been the most studied book in the world, the New Testament has been more studied than the Old, and the three purely historical accounts of the life of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) have received more attention than any other part of the New Testament. So we may say that the historical life of Jesus has been the most studied single topic in the history of research. Out of the mass of critical studies by conservative, liberal, and radical scholars, there has come an overwhelming consensus that the Synoptic records give us the most authentic ancient history extant in the world. This is the opinion, not only of those who worship the Christ to whom these records bear witness, but also the testimony of those who do not. They may question whether Jesus is indeed the Son of God (and books such as this are written for the purpose of discussing that question), but they leave no doubt that we have an essentially accurate account of His life on earth. For our purposes that is all that is necessary. It gives us a sure historical foundation on which to rest our discussion. We know there was such a person as Jesus and that He said and did essentially the things attributed to Him. Our question then is, “Who was He, and may we believe in Him?” We have, in the preceding pages, attempted to show that beginning with the historical Jesus we are led unmistakably to the divine Jesus.

There remains to be shown only that Christ did teach that the Bible was the inspired Word of God. He tells us the law of God is so sacred that not one jot or one tittle is unessential. “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18), This word cannot be broken (John 10:35); on the contrary, all that is written must be fulfilled (Matt. 26:24). Christ had his quarrels with the Pharisees about the interpretation of Scripture but not about its status as inspired. “It is written,” as a sign of the infallible word, was a formula with Him as with them. As a matter of fact, when He engaged in controversy with them, He would make his argument rest on a single word of the sacred text (John 10:34). The evidence that Christ did regard the Old Testament Scripture as inspired is so pervasive that it is seldom contested today even by those who themselves do not accept this inspiration but think that Jesus was mistaken, a victim of the “errors” of his day.

But what of the New Testament? Christ’s Bible was the Old Testament, not the New. Is there any ground in the teaching of Jesus for supposing that He gave it His imprimatur? Admittedly, the evidence is more inferential and less explicit than is His testimony to the Old Testament.

First of all, there is the consideration of probability. Is it at all likely that God would have inspired the Old Testament, which was merely preparatory to the coming of Jesus, and then leave His own life and the exposition of its meaning to uninspired men? It is not like God to make the second dispensation poorer than the first. Furthermore, if we need the preparation of the many books of the Old Testament in order to appreciate Christ, surely we need an authoritative exposition of the great life for which they prepare us. If we had no other argument for the inspiration of a sequel to the Old Testament, this would seem to justify our conviction that there must be one.

But in addition to the inferential argument just mentioned, we have the explicit statement of Jesus himself that He would lead His disciples into all truth, including, presumably, the many thing He desired to tell them which they were not able at that time to bear (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12, 13), So we know that Jesus intimated that there was to be further revelation since He was not Himself able to complete what He had begun.

The question remains, how do we know that the New Testament is the answer to that intimation? We know it because the New Testament was written by the authenticated messengers of Christ, namely, the Apostles. They were sent out by Christ and given His very powers over disease and devils. Since they claim to have been sent and authorized by Christ and to have received His revelations (Mark 3:14 f; 6:7 f; Luke 9:1 ff.; Acts 1:3, 15 ff.; 2:1 ff.; 9:1 ff.; 2 Cor. 12:1 ff.; Gal. 1:12 passim), they are to be believed if Christ is to be believed
 

#16 Hayford, J. W., Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Hayford’s Bible handbook. Nashville, TN; Atlanta, GA; London; Vancouver: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

1. The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16). The absolute authority of the Bible over our lives is based in our conviction that this Book does not merely contain the Word of God, but that it is the Word of God in its sum and in its parts. This text testifies to this, describing the actual process of this inspiration (inbreathing of life): (1) It is the word of the Holy Spirit. Theopneustos (Greek), translated “inspiration of God,” literally means “God-breathed.” This describes the source of the whole Bible’s derivation (that is, “all Scripture”) as transcendent of human inspiration. The Bible is not the product of elevated human consciousness or enlightened human intellect, but is directly “breathed” from God Himself. (2) Second Peter 1:20-21 elaborates this truth, and adds that none of what was given was merely the private opinion of the writer (v. 20) and that each writer involved in the production of the Holy Scriptures was “moved by” (literally, “being borne along”) the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that the writers were merely robots, seized upon by God’s power to write automatically without their conscious participation. God does not override those gifts of intellect and sensitivity that He has given His creatures. (Beware of all instances where individuals claim to “automatically” write anything at any time, for the Holy Spirit never functions that way.) (3) First Corinthians 2:10-13 expands on this process by which the revelation of the Holy Scriptures was given. Verse 13 says that even the words used in the giving of the Bible (not just the ideas, but the precise terminology) were planned by the Holy Spirit, who deployed the respective authors of the Bible books to write, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (literally, “matching spiritual words to spiritual ideas”). This biblical view of the Bible’s derivation is called the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, meaning every word is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.

2. The Complete Trustworthiness of the Bible (Ps. 19:7). That the “law of the LORD is perfect,” is direct reference to the absolute, complete, and entire trustworthiness of the Holy Scriptures, which constitute the Bible. The Word of God is perfect in its accuracy and sure in its dependability. Two terms are generally used to describe these features of God’s Word: (1) Inerrant (perfect) means that, in the original copies of each manuscript written by each Bible book’s respective author, there was nothing mistaken or tinged with error. (Further, the excellence of the Holy Spirit’s protection of the Scriptures over the centuries has insured that the copies delivered into our hands from generations past are essentially the same. Even literary critics who claim no faith in the truth of the Bible attest to its being the most completely reliable of any book transmitted from antiquity, in terms of its actually remaining unchanged and dependably accurate.) (2) Infallible refers to the fact that the Bible is unfailing as an absolutely trustworthy guide for our faith (belief in God) and practice (life and behavior). This is so because God is true (John 3:33; 17:3), because His Word reveals His truth (John 17:17), and because God cannot lie (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18).

3. The Content of God’s Word Is Completed (Prov. 30:5-6). The word “canon” is the term used to describe the completed number of the books of the Bible—the closed canon of the sixty-six books of the Holy Scriptures. It is derived from ancient words meaning “measuring stick,” and is applied here to designate those books that meet the requirements of being acknowledged as divinely inspired.

The Bible warns against either adding to or subtracting from its contents. Revelation 22:18 makes a conclusive statement, positional in God’s providence and wisdom, at the Bible’s end. While it refers directly to the Book of Revelation, most Bible scholars also provide a finalizing footnote on this subject: “Add to or subtract from the Bible at your own risk.” (A classic study of the judgment for “taking away” from God’s Word is seen in Jer. 36:20-32.)

In this regard, we are wise to understand terms. When we refer to the “revelation of the Scriptures,” it is important that we distinguish this consummate order of divine revelation from any other use of the term, however sacred. There are many today who do not know the difference between a “revelation” (an insight or an idea that may be of God, of man, or of the devil) and the revelation of God, which is in the closed canon of the Scriptures.

Because there are many books that claim to be divinely given, a casual or gullible attitude toward them can result in confusion and eventual destruction. It is interesting to note that even in Jesus’ time, several books held by some today to be intended for the Old Testament were in existence then. Yet, in the sixty-four times Jesus quotes from the Old Testament, not once does He quote from any of those books. The Bible is complete, completely trustworthy, and sufficient to completely answer anything we need to know for eternal salvation or practical wisdom concerning our relationships, morality, character, or conduct.
 

#17 Shanks, H. (Ed.). (2004). BR 10:03.

Thus, within institutional Christianity, we can discern a selective approach toward biblical texts, as well as a resistance to the texts motivated by an at least unconscious fear of the implications of the historical-critical method. That method is correctly perceived as calling into question not just the authority of the Bible, but also the authority derived from the Bible.

But institutional Christianity is not the only party responsible for this situation. That widely accepted scholarly ideas have not penetrated the thinking of the laity is partly the fault of biblical scholars themselves. One area especially lacking in courage is Bible translation. Many translations do not convey exactly what the original biblical languages—Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek—say. In this way translators avoid shocking people by making the Bible seem like one book with internal consistency, rather than an anthology exhibiting development of doctrines and a concomitant inconsistency.

For example, the high mythology of some biblical traditions is often softened by a backreading of monotheism, a principle that developed only relatively late in the biblical period. Thus biblical texts repeatedly refer to a group of divinities called “the sons of God” (see, for example, Job 1:6, in Hebrew), associated with Yahweh, the personal name of the God of Israel. Most translations render the phrase with something vague like “heavenly beings” (NRSV, Job 1:6) or “members of the court of heaven” (REB, Job 1:6), obscuring the idea of a high god presiding over an assembly of other deities, a concept the Israelites shared with their ancient Near Eastern neighbors.

Another example is the repeated references to angels. The development of an elaborate angelology is, like monotheism, a late phenomenon that should not be retrojected anachronistically. The angels who appear in biblical texts dated prior to the fifth century B.C.E. are simply minor deities, messengers of the assembly of the gods, much like Iris, Hermes (Mercury) and other gods of classical mythology.

Similarly anachronistic is reading every reference to the “spirit” of God as though it referred to what later came to represent the third person of the Trinity. As in Genesis 1:1, the translation “spirit” is often just wrong. It is not “the spirit of God” that swept over the waters (see, for example, the REB translation), but simply “a wind from God” (see also Genesis 8:1). In many translations we find a tendentious capitalization of the word “spirit,” as in Matthew 12:28 (casting out demons by the “Spirit of God”).

To preserve the uniqueness of Israel, translators draw overly sharp contrasts between Israel’s practices and those of its neighbors. Various forms of a Hebrew root meaning “to prophesy” are used in the Bible for both prophets of Yahweh and prophets of Baal, the Canaanite storm-god. Both Elijah and his adversaries on Mount Carmel are prophets, yet in most translations of 1 Kings 18:29 the latter “rave” rather than prophesy, though the Hebrew word is the same.

For the author of the Gospel of Matthew, as for most of his Christian contemporaries and their successors, the Hebrew Bible was essentially a set of codes decipherable only with the key of Christian belief. Matthew applies this principle with a wooden literalism that can have comic effects: According to Matthew 21:7, Jesus sat on two donkeys at the same time when he entered Jerusalem. This is in fulfillment, as the text tells us, of Zechariah 9:9, which contains a prophecy that the author of Matthew misread.* Only the most recent translations of Matthew 21:7 honestly render “he sat on them,” traditionally softened to “he sat thereon.”

This tendency to bowdlerize the Bible also appears in the inclusive language of newer translations. The Bible is overwhelmingly patriarchal. But how different it sounds when the psalmist’s or Paul’s exclusively male language is broadened to include women. “Happy the man who…delights in the Law …” at the in the beginning of Psalm 1 becomes “Happy are those who …,” as if women could study the Law; and Paul now routinely addresses his “brothers and sisters” rather than just his brothers, as in the original (Romans 1:13; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Galatians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:1, etc.). Such changes may be defensible for a Bible used in a liturgical context, when the words are understood to address a modern audience, but surely some Bible translation should accurately render the imperfect, gender-specific language of the original books.

Biblical studies have also been both sidelined and trivialized. Most biblical scholars, like me, became interested in the Bible for what may be characterized as essentially pious reasons. But a modern, critical study of the Bible can be discomforting. Because study may lead to disbelief, it is easier to focus on the constant new discoveries instead of the Bible itself. (Those discoveries should of course be interpreted not just for their relevance to the Bible, but in their own right.)

The Bible is probably civilization’s most over-studied book. Since academics have to publish to get jobs and keep them, and since there are fewer and fewer original things to say about the primary texts, biblical studies have often moved, understandably, to the fringes. Enormous amounts of time and energy are spent performing minute analyses of texts, themes and artifacts that more sensible historians regard as insignificant, or on studying studies of the Bible.

The timidity and centrifugal force of such studies have also resulted in a lack of popularization, perhaps better termed “accessible scholarship” by Richard Friedman. Biblical scholars often feel that expressing their methods and results in nontechnical language is beneath them. To some extent this is a product of the American academic system, which values the esoteric over the elegant. Thus biblical scholars often leave the field to the pious and ignorant…

To put it somewhat differently: Whether viewed positivistically or seen as an inspired text, the Bible is the beginning of a trajectory leading toward full freedom and equality for all persons. This movement has its initial historical stimulus, perhaps, in the Exodus, the liberation of Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondage. This event which they saw as divinely caused, has served as a model for ancient Israel and its heirs, Judaism, Christianity and Islam—a model for interpreting subsequent events such as the repeated deliverances of Israel and of the Jewish people, the “exodus” of Jesus (for that is what Luke 9:31 calls his death) and the hegira of Muhammed. It has also served as a model of conduct: “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9); that is, you should treat others as God treated you. Or, as Jesus is reported to have said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Or, as another prophet was told: “Did he not find you an orphan and shelter you? Did he not find you wandering and guide you? Did he not find you needy, and give you abundance? So as for the orphan, do not oppress him, and as for the beggar, do not scold him; and as for your Lord’s blessing, declare it” (The Qur’an, Sura 93).

Viewed as a historically conditioned anthology, then, the Bible can be understood not as a complete and infallible guide to the details of human conduct, but as a series of signposts pointing the way to a goal that its authors, like us, had not yet reached but were moving toward. There is, in other words, a continuity between our times and those of Moses and Amos and Jesus. Their formulations, like ours and all those in-between, are imperfect, but that too is reason for optimism: They were not specially privileged, their experience of the divine was not qualitatively different from our own.