The Divine Angle
Lecture Notes for Topic 1.2-
Religion 492
Last revised: 1/22/04
Contained below is a manuscript summarizing the class lecture(s) covering the above specified range of topics from the List of Topics for Religion 492.  Quite often hyperlinks (underlined) to sources of information etc. will be inserted in the text of the lecture. Test questions for all quizzes and exams will be derived in their entirety or in part from these lectures; see Exams in the course syllabus for details. To display the Greek text contained in this page download and install the free BSTGreek True Type fonts from Bible Study Tools.
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1.2 1.2.1 1.2.2

1.2 The Role of God in Scripture Texts

        The moment the word "Bible" is mentioned the issue of God's relationship to a set of ancient writings treasured by Christians as sacred scripture arises. Where did these documents come from? Who wrote them? How and where were they written? To whom were they written? Why just these documents? All these questions and more are a part of the baggage connected to the term "Bible." Many of these questions we will explore in subsequent topics, since these are questions that Christians have been wrestling with for almost two thousand years.
        But one early issue that needs exploring is how God is connected to these documents we call "Bible." This is the goal of topic 1.2. Two pivotal ideas are a part of that discussion: revelation and inspiration. A third concept, illumination, will emerge in the process of the discussion as well, but will not receive separate treatment here. The first two concepts have to do with the origin of these document, while the third concept focuses on the use of these documents.
        From the outset the modern student of scripture needs to learn to distinguish his/her twenty-first mental garb from the ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish garbs. Just as the study of the Church Fathers so dramatically reveals -- pun intended -- later generations of Christians, loosed from the Jewish roots of primitive Christianity, face a huge challenge. Their way of thinking -- garb, Weltanschau, world view etc., however you want to label it -- is very different from the way Jesus and the apostles in the first Christian century thought. We live in a very different world than the beginning Christians did. Becoming sensitive to this reality is a major first step in being able to grasp the concepts that we're going to study in this topic.
        One of the first things is to learn how to ask the right questions of the ancient texts? Because our questions tend to be shaped by the world we live in, they may not have answers, at least directly, from the ancient sources. Because of their different world view, our questions just never arose. Conversely, we sometimes are puzzled by some of their questions, since the motivation behind them seems strange to our post-modern minds. Thus the challenge is to listen closely to the framing of the ideas in the ancient world, and then compare that framing of issues to the typical way the same issues are framed from our world view. Long ago the Germans devised an apt word for this approach to raising questions: Fragestellung. What presuppositions stand as a foundation to our question? What implications in the question are present? Can the question be answered on its own merit? Or, must it be answered as one segment of a network of ideas that are interlaced together? The shaping of the question plays a vital role in success at finding answers.
        Then we must figure out ways to successfully build a thought bridge between the ancient world and our world -- Brückenschlagen, "slinging an idea across the bridge between then and now, as the Germans call it. In this effort we will encounter tensions. Although ancient and modern ideas can have points of intersection with one another, often these intersecting points will be very narrow. The post-modern question just will not be able to find an fully satisfying answer from ancient sources. Learning to live with this tension is both challenging and a necessary step to spiritual maturity, since, you see, the idea of biblical faith steps into the picture at certain points here. But faith must never become a cop-out for serious intellectual inquiry. But still the tension between faith and reason will always be present in varying degrees depending on the topic under consideration.
        Now to begin asking questions about revelation and inspiration. What did they mean? What do they mean? How can we successfully get from then to now? Three related but very different questions. As you probe the topics with these questions, look for the baggage attached to each question in each of the assigned reading sources.