The Bible

Authored by: William J. Abraham

The Routledge Companion to Modern Christian Thought

Print publication date:  March  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782173
eBook ISBN: 9780203387856
Adobe ISBN: 9781136677922

10.4324/9780203387856.ch34

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Abstract

Efforts to understand the Bible can be usefully classified initially under two contrasting catchphrases: they begin “from above” or they begin “from below.” Those that begin from above operate inside a theological horizon that unpacks such notions as canon, authority, revelation, inspiration, and the like, as applied to the Bible. The assumption is that the Bible is not just one more book on our bookshelves. It is canonical and authoritative; and it deserves these designations because it is constituted by special revelation and originates by way of divine inspiration. The goal of those who work from above is to make explicit the implications of these descriptions. The goal of those who work from below is to start from rigorous historical investigation of the Bible as it is, leaving aside the heavy-weight theological descriptions favored by those who work from above. Such work will seek first and foremost to examine the Bible's origins and content, using whatever relevant tools are required to make sense of the texts in the historical contexts. Only then, is it said, should we move to develop apt theological descriptions of scripture as canon, authoritative scripture, divine revelation, and the like.

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