reader’s patience is requested in the fact that these Ethical
Issues pages are in effect a kind of sub-Web, “piggy-backing” on the
principal Web, http://www.paulonpaul.org,
and thus that the As Paul Tells It . .
. designation at the top of each page is not quite accurate.
The Ethical Issues Home Page is readily accessible by clicking on Contents,
to be found at the top and bottom of each page.
of Jesus Traditions
A Note on the Authority of
|A discussion of
biblical ethics is not complete without a brief reference to the issue of
the authority of scripture. The authority of the Christian canon of
scripture is not self-evident. If it were self-evident, one might suppose
that it would be adopted upon acquaintance by Jews or Muslims or Buddhists
or Hindus—to mention several well-known possibilities. The Christian
scriptures possess, ultimately, a derivative authority:
• There was a church which handed on the Jesus traditions and
composed the gospels; to which letters were written; and which preserved
the writings that became scripture.
• There was a Christian church for several centuries before there
was a canon of scripture.
• It was the church which defined the limits of scriptural
writings, acknowledging as scripture the 27 books of the New Testament,
and adopting the Jewish canon which became the Old Testament.
|It is also true that
in a marvelous symbiotic process the church is instructed and even
reformed by its scriptures, while developing interpretive traditions
within the church which make it possible for the scriptures to speak relevantly
to each generation.
|From another point of
view, one’s attitude toward the Bible is a function of one’s doctrine
of revelation; thus a theory of scriptural authority is to a considerable
extent a theological enterprise; click on Perspective
for further comments.
|In brief, one concedes
a principle of scriptural autonomy at the risk of building upon a fragile
and even arbitrary foundation, to the neglect of a fuller and more
adequately grounded doctrine of revelation.
December 6, 2003
of Jesus Traditions