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Christian Theologies of Scripture

A Comparative Introduction

Justin Holcomb

Publication Year: 2006

All religious traditions that ground themselves in texts must grapple with certain questions concerning the texts' authority. Yet there has been much debate within Christianity concerning the nature of scripture and how it should be understood—a debate that has gone on for centuries.

Christian Theologies of Scripture traces what the theological giants have said about scripture from the early days of Christianity until today. It incorporates diverse discussions about the nature of scripture, its authority, and its interpretation, providing a guide to the variety of views about the Bible throughout the Christian tradition.

Preeminent scholars including Michael S. Horton, Graham Ward, and Pamela Bright offer chapters on major figures in the pre-modern, reformation, and early modern eras, from Origen and Aquinas to Luther and Calvin to Barth and Balthasar. They illuminate each thinker's understanding of the Christian scriptures and their views on interpreting the Bible. The book also includes overview chapters to orient readers to the key questions regarding scripture in each era, as well as chapters on scripture and feminism, scripture in the African American Christian tradition, and scripture and postmodernism.

This volume will be indispensable reading for students and all those interested in the nature and authority of Christian scripture.

Published by: NYU Press

TItle Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. ix-ix

First, I would like to thank family and friends who have helped in so many ways: Dan and Janet Holcomb, Rachel and Jacob Shields, Bill Martin, Chance and Tonya Steed, Brian and Dawn Baty, Glenn Lucke, Rev. Paul N. Walker, Rev. Carl Dixon, Chris and Shan Willoughby, the Clay family (Crawford, Andrea, Molly, and Caroline), Scott and Susan Latimer, and Gray Saunders...

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Introduction:Mapping Theologies of Scripture

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pp. 1-8

What is scripture?1Wilfred Cantwell Smith challenges us to pause and ponder this question. All religious traditions that ground themselves in texts must grapple with certain questions. In worship services and public and private readings, Christians often turn to scripture for guidance: to the stories of Abraham or Moses...

Part I: Patristic and Medieval

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pp. 9-10

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1. Patristic and Medieval Theologiesof Scripture: An Introduction

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pp. 11-20

Pre-Reformation biblical interpretation has come to be of interest to scholars in all fields of Christian thought across a broad and ecumenical front in recent years. In order to introduce the chapters that follow, I will sketch some general categories for reading these early interpreters and consider the reasons for and scope of this growing interest.1 Doing so will help to highlight questions that should be borne in mind when reading these initial chapters. We should begin by noting...

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2. Origen

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pp. 21-38

Origen of Alexandria (c. 185–c. 254) lived through a turbulent period for the Christian Church, when persecution was widespread and little or no doctrinal consensus existed among the various regional churches. In this environment Gnosticism flourished, and Origen was the first not only to refute Gnosticism, but also to offer an alternative Christian system that was more rigorous and philosophically respectable than the mythological...

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3. St. Augustine

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pp. 39-59

St. Augustine (354–430) was born in Thagaste (present-day Souq Ahras, Algeria), in the Roman province of Numidia, North Africa, of a non-Christian father, Patricius, and a Christian mother, Monica. Augustine became an adherent of Manichaeism in his teens, but gradually grew disillusioned by Manichee teaching. He left Carthage, where he had been teaching rhetoric, and sailed for Rome, where he was soon appointed...

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4. St. Thomas Aquinas

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pp. 60-80

St.Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) was born in the castle of Roccasecca, near Naples, Italy. His parents were of noble lineage and were kin to the emperors Henry VI and Frederick II. As a young boy, he was sent to the care of the monks at the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, where he displayed an unusual precocity in intellectual and spiritual matters...

Part II: Reformation and Counter-Reformation

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pp. 81-82

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5. Theologies of Scripture in the Reformationand Counter-Reformation

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pp. 83-93

As with many periods in Church history, the position of the “mainstream” Reformation tradition (Lutheran and Reformed) on scripture has often been misunderstood, by friend and foe alike. At least in our North American context, sola scriptura (scripture alone) has come to mean not simply that scripture alone is master over tradition...

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6. Martin Luther

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pp. 94-113

Born in Eisleben, Germany, Martin Luther (1483–1546) was baptized on the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, for whom he was named. From 1501 to 1505, Luther attended the University of Erfurt, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. At his father’s urging, he embarked on the study of law but soon left and joined the mendicant order of Augustinian Hermits. He took final vows shortly afterward, and in 1507 he was ordained...

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7. John Calvin

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pp. 114-133

John Calvin (1509–1564) was born in Noyon, France, and studied law at Orleans and Bourges. During his legal studies, Calvin also developed a love of Latin and Greek classical literature.After his sudden conversion to the evangelical movement started by Martin Luther, Calvin used his skill in languages to teach doctrine and interpret scripture for the evangelicals in France. Calvin was called to be a reader of scripture and pastor in Geneva...

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8. Scripture and Theology in Early Modern Catholicism

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pp. 134-154

The Counter-Reformation is a period in the history of the Roman Catholic Church during which the Church dealt with issues arising from the emergence of Protestantism.Though Catholic reform predated Martin Luther, nonetheless the challenges that he and other reformers presented led the Church to make serious and sustained changes....

Part III: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

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pp. 155-156

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9. Theologies of Scripture in the Nineteenthand Twentieth Centuries

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pp. 157-164

The Christian tradition has been characterized by its commitment to the significance of the Bible for life and thought. Indeed, Christian communal identity has largely been formed around a set of literary texts that together form canonical scripture. As David Kelsey remarks, acknowledging the Bible as scripture lies at the very heart of participating in the community of Jesus Christ, and the decision to adopt the texts...

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10. Friedrich Schleiermacher

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pp. 165-182

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) was the most significant Protestant theologian between John Calvin and Karl Barth. A native of Breslau in Silesia, he was the son of a Reformed army chaplain and grew up within the community of the Herrnhuter Brethren (i.e., the Moravian Pietists). He was educated in Moravian schools, attending college at Niesky, seminary...

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11. Karl Barth

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pp. 183-201

Karl Barth (1886–1968) is considered one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the twentieth century. Born in Basel, Switzerland, he began his theological studies at Berne and then continued his education under the direction of many of the prominent liberal theologians of the period, including Adolf von Harnack and Wilhelm Herrmann, at universities in Berlin, Tübingen, and Marburg. In the years before and during World War I Barth held several Swiss pastorates. While serving as a pastor in the industrial...

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12. Hans Urs von Balthasar

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pp. 202-219

Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–1988) was born in Lucerne, Switzerland. He was a man of remarkable energy, discipline, and talent, and the breadth and profundity of his publications place him at the forefront of twentieth-century Catholic theologians. He never held an academic post, and he adhered to none of the reigning theological movements of his day. Although he studied philosophy and theology as a Jesuit novitiate...

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13. Hans Frei

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pp. 220-240

Hans Frei (1922–1988) was born to a secular Jewish family in Berlin. As Nazi anti-Semitism increased, he first was sent away to a Quaker school in England, and then emigrated with his family to New York. Somewhere along the way he became a Christian, and he eventually studied theology at Yale...

Part IV: Contextual Theologies of Scripture

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pp. 241-242

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14. Tradition and TraditionsScripture, Christian Praxes, and Politics

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pp. 243-260

We need to begin with a series of definitions that will allow us to have the topic of tradition at the center of the chapter clearly before us. Tradition needs to be distinguished from custom and convention. All three are forms of social practice that both produce (that is, give rise to) and reproduce (that is, give continuity to) a given society. The distinctions can never be rigid, as we will see, but they are helpful...

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15. Scripture, Feminism, and Sexuality

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pp. 261-281

On August 5, 2003, at the national gathering of the Episcopal Church USA’s leadership, its bishops confirmed the diocese of New Hampshire’s election of the Reverend Eugene V. Robinson as its Bishop Coadjutor. This action made Rev. Robinson the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Robinson and his supporters praised...

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16. Scripture in the African-American Christian Tradition

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pp. 282-299

At St. John Baptist, a small African-American Baptist Church outside of Columbia, South Carolina, Pastor Roosevelt Robinson gathers the church elders in his office before each service to pray aloud for God’s blessing. One fall morning in 2002, Deacon Willie Simmons started off the prayers of the elders with the type of emotional appeal to God...

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17. Postmodern Scripture

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pp. 300-322

Postmodernism—the arrival of the “future now”—is already past. It is history. The postmodern may be what comes after (post) the present, the now (modus), but people are already seeking what comes after the postmodern, while others who once used the term have given up on it because it is so unhelpful. At one level, of course, talk of the postmodern...

About the Contributors

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pp. 323-326


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pp. 327-330

E-ISBN-13: 9780814790960
E-ISBN-10: 0814790968
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814736654
Print-ISBN-10: 0814736653

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Bible -- Theology.
  • Theology, Doctrinal -- History.
  • Bible -- Criticism, interpretation, etc. -- History.
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