A significant key to understanding the creation of the Bible is the Septuagint. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). The importance of this work for Christians should not be underestimated. It was the “Bible” of the New Testament writers. Of course, there was no bound Bible called the “Old Testament” at that time. All the scriptural texts were on numerous separate scrolls. What scrolls were to be included in the Biblical canon was still being determined. But these Greek biblical scrolls were used widely by Greek-speaking Christians and Jews in the 1st century. The translation was considered inspired and authoritative by Philo, Josephus, the writers of the New Testament, and the early church fathers.
Most citations of Old Testament texts in the New Testament—as many as 300— are from the Septuagint. The authors of the New Testament paved the way for non-Jews to learn the Scriptures by writing in Greek, the universal language of the Greco-Roman world. They readily turned to the Septuagint for quotations and paraphrasing. Similarly, theological discourse in the early church was based upon the Septuagint, including creedal debates. Unfortunately, many Christians are not aware of the existence of the Septuagint and its importance for understanding and interpreting the Bible. (more…)
Many of you may not realize I used to be highly involved in the public conversation on faith and sexuality. I am breaking my eight years of silence by sharing my story (“Karen’s Story: The Sequel“) on my new website, Reverent Sexuality. I hope this site will be a positive resource for LGBTQ people. Much of the current discussion focuses on theological and political debates. Not enough places exist that are dedicated to spiritual nurture and public commentary to support a vibrant Christian life for sexual minorities. I hope you will take a moment to check out Reverent Sexuality, add it to your Twitter and blog feeds, and pass it on to anyone else that you think might benefit from it. Thank you!
This is part 2 of a series on the origins of the Bible.
My last post examined what it means that God inspired and collaborated with human beings to write the Bible. This post explores scribal activity in greater detail to demonstrate their actual work, especially as it relates to expansion, adaptation, and contextual engagement. To be clear, scribes for the most part handled pre-existing oral and written compositions. They took seriously their job of passing down tradition in a faithful manner. However, sometimes adaptations and expansions were deemed necessary. This might seem troublesome to modern minds. We have a strong sense of the individual author. But ancient Near Eastern culture had no such qualms. Texts were communal products, not individual showpieces. In fact, much writing in antiquity was done anonymously. Texts typically bore the signature of the copyist rather than the original author. A modern analogy might be business or advertising literature. Such documents are not usually signed by the creator, and they may be adapted or changed to better convey the intended message by subsequent anonymous writers. The exception to anonymous texts in antiquity was prophetic oracles. Oracles had to be attributed to a particular prophet in order to be valid. However, scribes were still the ones that recorded, edited, and collated these oracles. (more…)
Have you ever wondered where the Bible came from? Christian doctrine states God inspired human beings to write Scripture, but few of us have unpacked what that means. As a kid growing up in church, I imagined Moses hiking up a mountain and God hand-delivering the first five books of the Bible. “Here you go, Moses—the Torah. Now go down and read it to the people.” I also imagined prophets sitting at their desks writing as God audibly dictated to them. In my mind all the books of the Bible were each a single document written by one particular author (e.g. Moses or Ezekiel or Solomon.) I didn’t give much thought as to how all these books came together into one volume. It never occurred to me that Scripture, at one time, looked any different than the nice leather bound book my parents gave me. But, the Bible did not fall out of the sky. Nor did God dictate words to human beings through mechanical writing. God inspired human beings in their cultural context.
We tend to think writers of Scripture wrote down every single word as enunciated by God. But Peter suggests otherwise: (more…)
Have you seen the new movie Noah starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly? Given my interest in Old Testament reception history, I could not pass it up. How would two modern Jewish men interpret this flood story? The Genesis account itself is a product of unique Israelite interpretation of a common ancient Near Eastern narrative. The story appeared in ancient texts long before Genesis was written. But, the biblical authors offer their own theological perspective on the event. Similarly, the flood has been the subject of midrash (Jewish interpretation of the biblical text) throughout history. Ancient Jewish writers sought to fill in narrative gaps in Genesis with commentaries like I Enoch and Jubilees. In fact, from these pseudepigraphal works the movie draws content about the Watchers and Noah’s visit to Methuselah—narrative details not found in the biblical text. Those Transformer-looking rock creatures in the film might seem like fantasy fiction made up on the fly, but their role did not come out of thin air! They are the fallen angels of lore–albeit their appearance a bit embellished. (more…)
This article was first posted on August 30, 2017 at interpretingscripture.wordpress.com.
Less than a week ago, on August 25th, 2017, several conservative evangelical leaders gathered to hammer out the Nashville Statement during the annual Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Conference, which took place in Nashville, Tennessee this year. The Statement was a joint endeavor of the ERLC and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Modeled after the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI), the manifesto expresses concern about homosexuality and “transgenderism,” stating: “Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.” In response, progressive Christians have offered various alternatives, including the Denver Statement and A Liturgists Statement. I want to address the question of whether the Nashville Statement is biblical, as well as comment on progressive responses. (more…)
This is the fifth and final post in a series on inerrancy.
Would you sign the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy? Why or Why not? Should the statement be discarded? Revised? Affirmed? CSBI has 19 articles. The preface to CSBI states, “We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmation about Scripture in light of Scripture itself.” Unfortunately, this charitable attitude is often missing from the discussion and debate. People can and do get fired from jobs and barred from Christian communities for even raising questions about principles in CSBI. This is a serious and ugly problem in the conservative evangelical world that needs to be confronted. However, I have decided to take the framers of CSBI as honest men who mean what they say. Below, I have listed all the articles along with my comments. This is an unusually long post. However, if you are interested in pondering CSBI it’s worth examining each Article and reading alongside R.C. Sproul’s authorized commentary, Explaining Inerrancy. I welcome your own thoughts and reflections. Tell me what you think!
This is the fourth in a series of five posts on inerrancy.
Reflecting on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the five views presented by Albert Mohler, Peter Enns, Michael Bird, Kevin Vanhoozer, and John Franke, two key issues stand out for me: the definition of “error” and the nature of inspiration. If the doctrine of inerrancy stands on the paradigm of no error versus error, it’s necessary to define the terms before we can honestly affirm or reject the doctrine. Yet, a thorough explication of “error” is not found in CSBI. Nor is error defined by the scholars in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. Similarly, clarity is lacking regarding what it means that God inspired human beings. In what sense is humanity evident in Scripture? Is the Bible a purely divine book? A divine and human book? Does evidence of humanity in Scripture constitute fallibility? Is it possible for Scripture to be both fallible and divine at the same time? If so, would that mean some parts are true and others not?
In the two previous posts I outlined a brief history of the doctrine of inerrancy as it developed under the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, as well as summarized the debate on inerrancy between Albert Mohler and Peter Enns. This post continues the debate as found in the book Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. This time, the views of Michael F. Bird, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and John R. Franke are summed up. As with any summary, these are my perceptions of their arguments. To read their views in their own words, read the book.