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How the Bible Means


How the Bible Means Sheila E. McGinn, Ph.D. Department of Religious Studies John Carroll University How the Bible Means What is Revelation ? an objective ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: How the Bible Means

How the Bible Means
  • Sheila E. McGinn, Ph.D.
  • Department of Religious Studies
  • John Carroll University

How the Bible Means What is Revelation?
  • an objective view God makes known the divine
    reality and will via an explicit message
  • exact formulation (doctrine) is content of
  • intellectual knowledge of Gods truths is object
    of revelation
  • faith outcome is assent of the mind to these
    divine truths
  • a subjective view God makes self will known
    via an interpersonal relationship
  • establishing relationships with human beings is
    vehicle for revelation
  • the Divine Self is the content of revelation
  • faith outcome is a personal commitment in
    response to the God who reveals

How the Bible Means Queries
  • 1 How did you come to know your best friend?
    By hearing things about the person? Or by
    entering into a relationship with the person?
  • 2 Are there things that you know about your
    friend? E.g., can you describe that person to
    another? Can you list her/his character traits?
    Can you tell stories that illustrate what kind of
    person your friend is?
  • 3 Will this description, list, or set of
    stories convey everything your friend is? If
    someone wants to really understand know your
    friend, what would you suggest?

How the Bible Means The Paradox
  • the revealing God is beyond human knowing,
  • Yet
  • God is active within human history as Revealer
  • what is one illustration of each of these two
  • what do you see as the implications of each of
    these two statements?

How the Bible Means Is the Bible Gods Revealed
  • The revealed Word of God is, in its fullest
    sense, the human person, Jesus, the Christ
  • We also find Gods Word in
  • Jesus words deeds
  • Jesus words deeds in the proclamation of the
    apostles ( the kerygma)
  • the Bible, a written record of the apostolic
  • So, the Bible is derivatively Gods word

How the Bible Means
  • Saying The Bible is Gods Word means by reading
    the Bible, we can come to know the God Who
  • Q Do you agree or disagree? Why?

How the Bible Means Claim 1 reading the Bible,
we can know God the Revealer
  • Biblical stories illustrate how God interacts
    with the world, especially human beings
  • The stories of Gods activities provide
    directions for understanding characteristics of
    God (e.g., God as giving, loving, faithful,
  • Biblical theologians present their
    interpretations of events and of Gods role in
  • They also present their own ideas of God, which
    give us further directions for understanding
    (i.e., knowing-in-relationship)

How the Bible Means
  • Claim 2 The Bible is Gods Word in human words
  • Q1 Do you agree or disagree? Why?

How the Bible Means The Bible is Gods word in
human words
  • This is the official teaching of the RC Church
  • God did not write the Bible God inspired human
    authors to write the Biblical materials
  • inspiration guidance, not dictation
  • the authors aimed their messages so they would be
    understood by their own audience (i.e., the one
    at the time when it the text was written)
  • their meaning may not be at all obvious to us now

How the Bible Means
How the Bible Means The Bible is Gods word in
human words
  • Q2 What are the implications of this statement?
  • A1 Human beings of different times and places
    wrote the Biblical stories, laws, etc.

How the Bible Means The Bible is Gods word in
human words
  • there were many human authors to the Bible
  • each book of the Bible (and often even different
    passages within the same Biblical book) is a
    distinct composition written on its own and for
    its own unique purpose
  • these writings were not produced for the
    collection we call the Bible ( the books, the

How the Bible Means The Bible is Gods word in
human words
  • How then do we read the Bible?
  • remember that the human author chose the images
    and shaped the language of each text
  • learn the social, cultural, economic and
    historical context of each text
  • understand the language and use of images in each
  • ask what each author assumed due to cultural
  • ask what each author might have omitted from the
    text due to social, cultural, or historical

How the Bible Means The Bible is Gods word in
human words
  • e.g., Jesus words are the sayings of Jesus
    the way they are recalled by the Biblical author
  • the authors changed the impact of Jesus sayings
    by collecting them and reporting them seriatum,
    without mentioning their original context
  • the authors adapted Jesus sayings to new
  • the authors inferred from Jesus teaching and
    deeds what he would have said or done in a new
    situation, and wrote their stories showing this

How the Bible Means The Bible is Gods word in
human words
  • Why not Gods Dictated words?
  • Exegetes from II CE onward have noticed, e.g.,
    that the four gospels have contradictory details
    about the life and deeds of Jesus
  • Tatians Diatessaron (Harmony of the Four
    Gospels, ca. 150) rejected as wrong strategy
  • Each evangelist offers something unique and
    significant for understanding the person and
    message of Jesus

How the Bible Means The Bible is Gods word in
Human words
  • Contradictions exist in the Biblical text, but
    God cannot err or be contradictory
  • Thus, variations and contradictions must arise
  • The human authors are the only other source for
    the Biblical texts
  • The assumption of early authorship of the gospels
    is not valid
  • No gospel was written during Jesus lifetime
  • The earliest gospel was finished 40 years after
    Jesus death
  • evangelists were not eyewitnesses of Jesus

How the Bible Means
  • All the gospel material originated in Oral
  • Variations in the gospel reports are due, at
    least in part, to variations in the oral
    tradition which underlie the texts
  • Oral Tradition
  • the rule of three
  • re-contextualization
  • habit of relocating events
  • acquisition of names
  • acquisition of details
  • mnemonic devices

How the Bible Means depends upon how we read
  • Four Common Reading Strategies
  • historicist or literalistic reading
  • public reading in churches
  • inspirational/spiritual reading
  • scholarly or analytical method

How the Bible Means historicist or literalistic
  • read the Bible text to learn facts about Jesus
    life It happened just like it says.
  • take every text as historically factual
  • add together the details of history and doctrine
    from all the various Biblical books
  • confidence in knowing what God expects of you
  • certainty that the Bible can answer any question

How the Bible Means public reading in churches
  • direct proclamation of living word to
    contemporary audience
  • may include some background data in exposition
  • show that interpretation of Scripture must be
    done from within the community of believers
  • discover meaning of text for individual-in-communi
  • insight into contemporary meaning of text

How the Bible Means inspirational/spiritual
  • meditative or imaginative strategies
  • begin with face value of text and engage it
    with the imagination
  • discover personal meaning for me (as an
    individual) today
  • find emotional comfort and personal challenge

How the Bible Means scholarly/analytical method
  • reminds us that Jesus time and culture are
    foreign to us
  • provides background for understanding Jesus in
    his own social historical context
  • uncovers the fresh and distinctive message of
  • supplements other ways of reading the Bible
  • shows that the Bible raises important questions
    for us as well as providing answers

How the Bible Means depends upon how you read
  • Q1 What do you see as the advantages of each of
    these reading strategies?
  • Q2 What is the cost of each reading strategy?