The Bible Message
“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Christ] interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (St. Luke 24: 27).
From the standpoint of historic Christianity, the Bible is the book of salvation, a primary revelation of the manner in which God has acted and is acting to deliver mankind from the forces of evil. Man was intended to live in eternal fellowship with God but has instead rebelled against his Creator. Having alienated himself from God, man has cut himself off from that spiritual wisdom, that moral and spiritual perfection and that eternal life, which God originally intended, him to enjoy. As a result of this self-induced alienation from God, man is lost and in bondage to the world, the flesh and the devil. However, God has acted, in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ, to save man from his alienated condition. God has also revealed himself, his will and his plan for the salvation of mankind, to the patriarchs and prophets of ancient Israel and to the apostles of Jesus, not in writing, but by way of direct revelation. The Bible is the written record of that original and unwritten revelation. The Old Testament tells the story of God’s dealings with ancient Israel from approximately 2000 B.C. until the time of Christ; and it contains, as its central message, God’s promise to save mankind and the world through the “anointed one,” Messiah, Christ, of Israel. The New Testament proclaims Jesus of Nazareth to be the promised Christ, who has, through his life and work, fulfilled the divine plan of salvation and made it possible for man to be reconciled to God.
Although the Bible contains two “testaments,” the historic Christian Church has always stressed the basic unity of the biblical revelation. The Old and New Testaments are unified in that they were both written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they both contain the same central theme and message concerning God’s plan for the salvation of mankind and they both point in the same direction, the coming of the kingdom of God. The Bible, then, contains one revelation in two dispensations. The key to the unity of Holy Scripture is Jesus Christ. He is the central figure in the divine plan of salvation revealed in God’s written Word. From the Christian point of view, the Old Testament is a promise of and a preparation for the coming of the Messiah, of the Christ through whom, the salvation of mankind will be effected. In its proclamation of Jesus of Nazareth, as the Christ, the New Testament affirms the fulfilment of the Old Testament message of salvation: in and through Jesus Christ, God has saved mankind and the world.
The Inspiration of the Bible
The Bible is a book of books, a collection of sacred writings. The books contained in Holy Scripture were written, edited and compiled at various times, in various places and by various authors. The Christian Church regards this collection of writings as an authentic and authoritative that is, “canonical” revelation of truth concerning the relationship between God, man and the cosmos. The Bible is the written Word of God, the supreme expression of God’s revelation to man.
The books of the Bible were written by men who were guided in their writing by divine inspiration. From the standpoint of the Christian Church, the Bible is inspired by God and this means that it contains no formal errors or inner contradictions concerning the relationship between God and the world. It is not necessary, however, to insist upon the literal truth of every statement contained in Holy Scripture and any historical or scientific inaccuracies do not undermine the coherence and validity of the essential theological message of salvation.
The Interpretation of the Bible: Scripture and Tradition
The Christian faith is a living and experiential faith. It is grounded in the conviction that God has revealed himself and his plan of salvation to his chosen people of the old and new covenants, to ancient Israel and to the Christian community. Christians believe that God has made himself present and known and, that he continues to make himself present and known, within the continuing life and experience of his people, that is, within the tradition of the Church. Tradition is the living and developing expression of the Christian faith, of the Church’s ongoing experience of and response to the grace and love of God.
The Anglican Church acknowledges her dependence on Holy Scripture as containing all things necessary for salvation (Article 6 of the Thirty-Nine Articles). Scripture shows the way of salvation but, though subordinate, tradition and reason also play their part in shaping the life of the Church. Anglican doctrine “is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures” (Canon 5). In setting out to offer a rational faith, the Anglican Church believes that her position as a church that is at once catholic and reformed can be justified by an appeal to sound learning. Her catholicity is not enslaved to tradition nor is her reformed character in bondage to biblical literalism. Her teaching authority is “that of Scripture interpreted by the primitive church with which she has continuity, historical and doctrinal” (Lancelot Andrewes). She is indissolubly bound up with the mind of the Fathers, which in essence was a scriptural mind and it was this ecclesiastical mind that was appropriated by her and made the basis of Christian living and the context of Christian thinking.
The Message of the Bible
The Bible is the book of salvation. Through the books of the law, the historical writings of ancient Israel, the wisdom literature, the writings of the prophets, through the New Testament revelation of the “Good News” of salvation in Jesus Christ, the records of the earliest Christian communities and ending with St. John’s revelation of the last days, the entire history of salvation is manifested, God’s plan for the redemption of mankind and the world from the forces of evil and for the ultimate glorification of man and the world in the kingdom of heaven.
Man’s salvation is a result of his identification with Christ through faith. Through faith, man enters into the life of Christ, which is the life of God, lived through the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of the body of the Church. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, man receives power to grow morally and spiritually into the perfect image of Christ. Through free and personal response to God’s offer of salvation, man is delivered from the bondage of evil, sin and death. Through the life of the Church, man may, therefore, enter into communion with God the Father, through God the Son and in God the Holy Spirit.
Study Bible: (RSV), Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1985.
The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible: (RSV), Abingdon, 1982.
The Rev’d. Geoffrey E. Andow