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What Is Scripture?

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When the authors of various New Testament (NT) letters refer to Scripture, it is clear that they are not referring to their own letters because they were not at that time considered Scripture. Presumably, they are referencing the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament). That being the case, are we to apply the same reverence to those letters because many decades later they become canonized by the church?

 

For example, when the author of 2 Timothy 3:16 states, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness..." he is clearly referring to existing Scripture, so should we make the leap to include passages that he did not? (Including, his own).

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this?

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Great (and important) question. I suspect people who know more than me will be along shortly. Until then, you're stuck with me ;)

 

At the moment, I'm trying to get my head around just the reformed end of things. I was brought up in a PC(USA) Church, and have decided the best way for me to deepen my connection to Christianity is to understand reformed Christianity first by reading various reformed thinkers and reading the Bible in relation to them. I plan on branching out from there.

 

So what does all that mean for your questions?

 

Well, for me, I'm ok right now with viewing scripture as both Testaments of the Bible. However, I see the canonization process is a human process and that "The Bible" is hardly a perfectly stable thing (different translations, slightly different set of books for different denominations, etc). I'm ok with it not because I believe The Bible is the inerrant Word of God perfectly expressed, but that I'm trying to understand a religious tradition that used the Bible as an anchor. And this cuts both ways: I'm more interested in the Bible than the Gospel of Thomas right now because the Gospel of Thomas isn't as directly connected to what I'm trying to understand at the moment. I've read the Gospel of Thomas and find it fascinating, and I don't criticize anyone who holds it more central to their faith than I do, but they are doing something different than I am. Which is fine.

 

....did I make any sense? :blink:

 

EDIT: edited out some off topic stuff

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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Made perfect sense to me, Nick. :)

 

It is a very good question, Peter. Like Nick, I really don't know much, but here is where I stand, right now.

 

I'm coming from a tradition that believes that every word of the Bible is absolutely the inerrant word of God. I am, personally, moving away from that view. I think some things in the Bible were, possibly, inspired and probably much of it was not.

 

How do we know whether or not something is scripture or inspired writing? The basic definition of scripture is, " a body of writings considered sacred or authoritative". Whether or not you believe something is scripture would depend upon the religion to which you subscribe. Even within that box there will be differences of opinion, as there is within Christianity (like Nick mentioned with the book of Thomas). Some of us will take every word as inspired, whereas some of us will pick and choose.

 

As I said, I am currently moving away from the idea of inerrant scripture and trying to get a more personal connection with God and my whole spiritual path. I don't want to feel a need to accept something, just because someone told me it's from God. I want to be able to make that judgment for myself (with the guidance of the Spirit). What is scripture, really, but mostly advice on how to live? A set of moral principles? A path...a way. If it is helpful and good advice, I will try to follow it (whether it's in the Bible or in other writings).

 

Perhaps "scripture" is more of a tradition, in some instances, than actual "inspired word". Not to say some or even a lot of what people call scripture might not be inspired...it may very well be.

 

I'm still learning/seeking.

Edited by Marsha

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Perhaps "scripture" is more of a tradition, in some instances, than actual "inspired word". Not to say some or even a lot of what people call scripture might not be inspired...it may very well be.

 

Could you explain what you mean by inspired word in this instance? Do you mean personal revelation, or something else?

 

And don't get used to me making sense. B)

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I think the 2 Timothy passage can be applied to all religious traditions and philosophies in the sense that they are all useful for teaching and training.

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Marsha

Perhaps "scripture" is more of a tradition, in some instances, than actual "inspired word".

 

To my mind this is a good way to describe scripture. Tradition. "Scripture" is what, by consensus, we say is and understand to be "scripture."

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Could you explain what you mean by inspired word in this instance? Do you mean personal revelation, or something else?

 

Yes, revelation from God, or some might say a "higher source", a higher level of consciousness. That "spark" of something that inspires us (to see things differently, to live better, etc)...

 

And don't get used to me making sense. B)

 

lol...okay. I won't let the expectations get too high. ;)

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Marsha

 

 

To my mind this is a good way to describe scripture. Tradition. "Scripture" is what, by consensus, we say is and understand to be "scripture."

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

 

Yes, it's very subjective, I think.

 

What I am trying to do is sort out what is purely just history and tradition, as opposed to what I can actually accept as inspired scripture. That applies mainly to the Bible (for my purposes, right now), but it could apply to any book that is considered sacred scripture. I want to be a little more discerning about what I believe to be inspired and useful for spiritual growth.

Edited by Marsha

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I find it interesting that the word in Greek just means "writing" and though it is obvious when taken in context at passages that it is often used and meant to refer to the present back then, Old Testament writings. In 2 Tim 3:16 it says in the King James...

 

All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

 

Note the word "is" has been inserted and is not in the original Greek. I believe it more plainly says that " All writings given by inspiration of God are good for reproof," etc.

 

American Standard reads.. "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness."

 

In simple English... "Every holy Writing which comes from God is of profit for teaching, for training, for guiding, for education in righteousness:"

 

This of course is not exclusive to the Bible as we know it... though finding agreement with this statement in the Christian church system would be most difficult.

 

Which writings are inspired by God? In my view, any writing in any book that witnesses with God's Spirit in you and not necessarily and not often with the fleshly mind. What do these inspired by God writings point to? IMO, the things of the Spirit as the Spirit is eternal while the flesh is like a vapor and profits little to be overly concerned with.

 

Just my 2 cents..

 

Joseph

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Which writings are inspired by God? In my view, any writing in any book that witnesses with God's Spirit in you and not necessarily and not often with the fleshly mind. What do these inspired by God writings point to? IMO, the things of the Spirit as the Spirit is eternal while the flesh is like a vapor and profits little to be overly concerned with.

 

I like this...a lot.

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To me scripture is what ever is foundational.

 

steve

 

Yes. I started reading Marcus Borg's "Reading the Bible Again", last night, and one of the comments in the chapter I was reading this morning was, "The Bible is the constitution of the Christian world, not in the sense of being a collection of laws, but in the sense of being its foundation."

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Yes, revelation from God, or some might say a "higher source", a higher level of consciousness. That "spark" of something that inspires us (to see things differently, to live better, etc)...

 

I agree with this statement and think the root of all scripture is to bring a direct experimental knowledge or spiritual experience. I feel this experimental knowledge is older than all religions and can be referred to as the science of consciousness in order to include all religions. To understand consciousness one must go beyond the intellect, body and emotions and take these three and the spirit to develop the consciousness to its fullest potential. This knowledge of consciousness in my experience allows us to perceive. As a Christian, I view Christ as one of the wise ones, the light or Christos and the transmitter of this light that is beyond form, matter and energy. I feel these profound mysteries of spirit are hidden in all scripture and can benefit everyone if read with an open heart and mind. The science to awaken consciousness is the science of perception to be true to our dharma or gnosis so I feel we need to diagnosis the Bible, which is similar to how the doctor observes and analyzes the perception of a patient in order to draw a conclusion. Therefore, the road to understanding the scriptures can be found in getting to know ourselves better.

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Part of our advent litany-

 

"Today we give thanks for the prophets among us who bring to us surprising new visions of hope, who challenge us to think outside the box, and who show us a future we never anticipated."

 

seemed relevant

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter

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I agree with this statement and think the root of all scripture is to bring a direct experimental knowledge or spiritual experience. I feel this experimental knowledge is older than all religions and can be referred to as the science of consciousness in order to include all religions. To understand consciousness one must go beyond the intellect, body and emotions and take these three and the spirit to develop the consciousness to its fullest potential. This knowledge of consciousness in my experience allows us to perceive. As a Christian, I view Christ as one of the wise ones, the light or Christos and the transmitter of this light that is beyond form, matter and energy. I feel these profound mysteries of spirit are hidden in all scripture and can benefit everyone if read with an open heart and mind. The science to awaken consciousness is the science of perception to be true to our dharma or gnosis so I feel we need to diagnosis the Bible, which is similar to how the doctor observes and analyzes the perception of a patient in order to draw a conclusion. Therefore, the road to understanding the scriptures can be found in getting to know ourselves better.

 

Thank you, Soma. That was interesting. Especially, the idea of understanding the scriptures by knowing ourselves better (who we are). Many eons ago, I was involved in an organization called Self-Realization Fellowship. It was organized and founded by an Indian Guru named Parmahansa Yogananda (you may know of him?). Because he was trying to teach westerners meditation and eastern philosophy, he used a lot from Christianity and the Bible as comparative examples of eastern principles. SRF Temples of worship even have a picture of Christ up along with other of Yogananda's line of Gurus. It was an interesting organization. I studied and worshiped/meditated with them for a about three years. Anyway, from that experience, I do understand what you're saying about the means towards a good understanding of the Bible.

 

I also recall a book by Yogananda's Guru (Sri Yuteswar) called "The Holy Science" in which he does comparisons between the Bible and the Bagavhad Gita. That was long before I had really studied the Bible. I think I would appreciate that book much more, today.

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Marsha you are so fortunate to have those experiences. I think it was Yogananda's book where it was said, "I went to bed and had a dream that I was a butterfly and when I awoke I was thinking am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man?" I have read and learned many things from Self Realization publications even though I was not a member. I have seen pictures of the LA center and it looks very inviting. My studies of the East have made me a better Christian. I am starting a book the "Interior Castle" by St. Theresa Avila a Spanish Carmalite Nun, Saint and Mystic. She talks about the 7 mansions and describes them and their attributes. I am gathering information and I am thinking of starting a thread to show the similarities of the 7 mansions, 7 chakras, and the 7 sacraments. The joy of awakening, every step of the path is the way.

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I am gathering information and I am thinking of starting a thread to show the similarities of the 7 mansions, 7 chakras, and the 7 sacraments. The joy of awakening, every step of the path is the way.

 

I look forward to reading that thread.

 

Some facts about the Bible that always got in the way of understanding it as the inerrant and literal word of God:

 

There was no Bible to reference when the authors of both old and new testament where writing.

 

The text were canonized by the Roman Empire in 325, after years of debate on ther content, and even a few murders and excommunications occuring as part of the canonization process.

 

The original text were mostly in Greek, written as sequential letters, no capitals, no spaces, and not punctuation.*my sunday school class did a lesson on this. we were each given a letter, written with no spaces, no punctuation, and no capitals. We were asked to insert the accents where necessary. The differences in finished product was staggaring. at least 4 conflicting versions from 10 people, ranging from a love letter,to a nasty break up letter.

 

All texts from that era of history were meant to be heard, not read. The general public was illiterate. Therefore, the accuracy of the text could only be verified by it's telling, and we will never know how it was originally read.

 

All chapter and verse markings were inserted in translation for the sake of cataloging and filing, not to signify specific depth or meaning of any specific passage.

 

There are undeniably specific and signifigant contradiction within the text, within the behavior and words of certain key characters, and in "eye witness" tellings of the same event (i.e. conflicting resurrection accounts)

 

From Ye old King James Version preface:

 

"The Bible is not simply one book. It is an entire library of books covering the whole range of literature. It includes history, poetry, drama, biography, prophecy, philosophy, science, and inspirational reading."

 

"Since the Bible was written by many men over a period covering 1,500 years; and since the last author of the Bible has been dead 1,900 years, there are definite prolems with understanding the exact meaning of certain passages of the Bible."

 

Brian McLaren addresses the question of "inspiration" by asking if the Bible is a divinely inspired constitution, or a divinely inspired library? The approach changes the undestanding of the overall work drastically, without taking aware from it's value or vitality.

 

Personally, I like the Mizpah approach, meditating on each story, in the place of each character, and trying to take value each one's experience and participation.

Edited by Jake

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I agree that meditating on the stories, identifying with the characters, using our imagination, is the approach that makes the bible meaningful, personal, relevant -- the only way, in fact, the one that was intended. (btw its midrash, not mizpah)

 

In the verse from Timothy, the term scripture undoubtedly refers only to the OT, though that letter may have been one of the latest written in the NT. I think we can trust that the same degree of divine inspiration applies to the NT as it was finalized... there is more continuity between the two, both in culture and in theme, than disjunction. Also it seems that inspiration is as much about the discernment or the frame of mind we read in, as the text itself. And, as others have suggested, many other religious works and secular literature can convey an enlightening or uplifting spirit.

Edited by rivanna

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(btw its midrash, not mizpah)

 

 

LOL, I was afraid i had the wrong word, and no time to find the correction. Fortunately, you read my intention. Thanks. ;)

 

I understand Timothy to be refering to the Talmud, and specifically the Gemara, or the section of the Talmud refering to Rabbinic Law. The OT had not been compiled yet, so any NT reference to it is impossible.

 

Although there are overlaps between the OT and the Talmud, the entire body of work is a very different thing.

Edited by Jake

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I've been intending to add my $.02 for a while. For me, scriptures are works that some group of people take vwery seriously, in particular regarding questions of meaning and purpose in life. In particular, I think of the Bible (both Hebrew and Christian) as a collection of works that describe the human search for the divine.

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I've been intending to add my $.02 for a while. For me, scriptures are works that some group of people take vwery seriously, in particular regarding questions of meaning and purpose in life. In particular, I think of the Bible (both Hebrew and Christian) as a collection of works that describe the human search for the divine.

 

As an English guy, this is my £0.01.......I tend to agree with the above, but often regret having to observe that many find it easier to "take seriously" any words that appear to justify the condemnation of others, leaving themselves with a clear conscience (well, God said it!) Sorry, just feeling a bit sour, and perhaps I've just read far too many posts by far too many people all tending to exult their own particular scripture while slashing the scriptures of others.........

 

For me, they are all human products, which does not necessarily mean they do not contain genuine truth and intuitions of the divine. But they are human, all too human at times. And for me, the idea that any one particular text/book is the actual product of divine inspiration, while all others are merely human, is a non starter.

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For me, they are all human products, which does not necessarily mean they do not contain genuine truth and intuitions of the divine. But they are human, all too human at times. And for me, the idea that any one particular text/book is the actual product of divine inspiration, while all others are merely human, is a non starter.

 

Best post on the topic.

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As an English guy, this is my £0.01.......I tend to agree with the above, but often regret having to observe that many find it easier to "take seriously" any words that appear to justify the condemnation of others, leaving themselves with a clear conscience (well, God said it!) Sorry, just feeling a bit sour, and perhaps I've just read far too many posts by far too many people all tending to exult their own particular scripture while slashing the scriptures of others.........

 

For me, they are all human products, which does not necessarily mean they do not contain genuine truth and intuitions of the divine. But they are human, all too human at times. And for me, the idea that any one particular text/book is the actual product of divine inspiration, while all others are merely human, is a non starter.

 

 

Since I originally posed the question, I have read with great interest the various replies and I thank all who have contributed.

 

I have to second Jake's view that this is the best post to date. I do not mean to denigrate any of the other viewpoints, I simply think that this summation (after the prologue) is eloquent and inclusive. Having been an apologist for the Christian Bible inerrantist camp, the pendulum for me has swung entirely the other way.

 

Once again, thanks to all who have contributed.

 

Peter.

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Marsha you are so fortunate to have those experiences. I think it was Yogananda's book where it was said, "I went to bed and had a dream that I was a butterfly and when I awoke I was thinking am I a butterfly dreaming I am a man?" I have read and learned many things from Self Realization publications even though I was not a member. I have seen pictures of the LA center and it looks very inviting. My studies of the East have made me a better Christian. I am starting a book the "Interior Castle" by St. Theresa Avila a Spanish Carmalite Nun, Saint and Mystic. She talks about the 7 mansions and describes them and their attributes. I am gathering information and I am thinking of starting a thread to show the similarities of the 7 mansions, 7 chakras, and the 7 sacraments. The joy of awakening, every step of the path is the way.

 

Thank you for sharing all of that, Soma. I agree with you about studying eastern philosophy making one a better Christian. I think it has given my Christian belief depth that it never would have had without that background. I spent some time, in the beginning of my Christian walk, thinking I needed to separate myself from past beliefs. That wasn't working well for me. I am now in the process of integrating everything I have learned, plus the spiritual experiences I have had. THAT is working out really well! :)

 

How are you enjoying "Interior Castle"? That does sound interesting. I have not read it. It sounds as though there might be a similar concept in Mormonism known as the three degrees of glory...each level more beautiful and closer to God, as you progress.

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The Interior Castle is so beautiful. I am reading it very slowly so I can think about it and just let it simmer and hover over me. I look at each room as a layer of the mind and see the chakra system describing the energy system related to it. The sacraments seem to be a way to unlock those doors or free the chakras so energy can raise our energy or consciousness. I am trying to put it into words, but that is so hard. The good thing is I crave my meditation more than any physical pleasure at this time and have difficult duties to keep me grounded. I can't wait to get others in put to expand on this experience.

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