An Account of the Bible

Initial motive
Critical Survey
Tanakh Pentateuch Historical Poetical Major Prophets Minor Prophets
NT Gospels Early Church Paul's Letters Other Letters Prophetic
Arguments and Issues
Was understood Discerning approach Canon Against fundamentalism
Themes and claims Change Strange times Resurrection Conclusion?

In June 2002 I attended the local Anglican church in New Holland where a Methodist lay preacher recently given charge of the tiny Methodist church in New Holland preached.
Part of her argument was that Jesus of Nazareth was either mad (bad) or God according to his claims. As well as this stupid but often given argument relying on the ignorance of the congregants, and doing vandalism to cultural distance and particularity (that they lived in a world of the supernatural, demons and everything about to end, where we have had centuries of different categories of thought and stable realities), and misrepresenting Jesus the Jew, and the titles given to prophets and messianic figures, her argument was unscriptural and also took away the full humanity of Jesus affirmed in later doctrine (because any man saying this would have been bad or mad).
So this webpage is a corrective to such Christian ignorance. In any case, as someone who's never had anything near an evangelical view of the Bible, I thought it necessary to tackle the issues even for myself. After laying out what largely moderate scholarship thinks, I make some of my own assessments, particularly on the argument that the (doctrinally based) Church is the interpreter and guardian of the Bible as a whole.

Note: this is by and large a summary and re-presentation of sources. Greater explanation is given in them and they are recommended. The principal source for points is the late Anglican bishops' book, Hanson, A. T. and Hanson, A. P. C. (1989), The Bible Without Illusions, SCM Press, but there are others.

Books of the Bible

classification of the books of the bible

More than twenty to thirty people wrote the Bible (as was once thought):


The Tanakh is the entirity of the Christians' Old Testament and this name comes from Torah (Law), Nebi'im (Prophets) and Kethubim (the Writings)

The Pentateuch/ the Torah

The Pentateuch is the Christian term for the Torah, the first five books that constitute Mosaic Law

The Historical Books

The Poetical Books

The Major Prophets

The Minor Prophets

New Testament

The Gospels

The Early Church

The Letters of Paul

The Other Letters

A Prophetic Book

How it was understood

The interest of this section is how the writers and actors in the dramas thought of and used the growing body of available scriptures

Here are some details:

The criticism of this is that:

Because they believed the Old Testament figures had predicted the New testament events:

A More Discerning Approach

We know more about how the Old Testament is written than did the New Testament writers and we know about the construction and understanding of the New Testament too better than the Early Church:

The Jews call the Old Testament:

The Bible in two Testaments is a unity of documents:

There are no original parts of the Bible existing...

It can be said that:

The latest books were written in Aramaic - these include:

Every New Testament writer displays the influence of Jewish (mis or developed) interpretation into the Greek:

People who say that the Gospel writers were (had to be) "honest" simply fly in the face of the evidence facing them, and are imposing a category of "honesty" that does not properly apply:

Moving on...

So it's a case of choose your interpretation book and period - or to see the varieties as relative traditions


The Bible is not equal
For Christians, the New Testament is greater witness than the Old Testament
They make up the Canon
The Apocrypha has varying degrees of acceptability
There are many books with many translations that may have become part of the Canon but did not make it at all, or stayed in the Apocrypha

As for the processes of making a canon of scripture:


The processes of construction and knowing how the books really do relate to each other are the start of understanding errors
These are in application, prophecy, oracular misuse, fundamentalist interpretation and through objectifying culture as if it is absolute:

Scholarship has revealed:

Another area ripe with errors is obviously mistranslations:

Prophecy stretching across different periods is dodgy and implies:

They believed that no prophecy in the Bible could continue unbroken:

Against fundamentalism

Western thought and work demolishes a fundamentalist view within our culture which tries to reaffirm the oracular-mythological view once held within all near-Eastern and Western premodern cultures:

Therefore Bible transmits to us:

So there are:

Blind alleys regarding the Bible have therefore been exposed:

Just as there is no consistent theology, nor is there a consistent plan for worship:

Themes and claims

Despite the oracular approach of the New Testament writers and Church fathers, there were general emergent themes:

God in the Bible has several terms:

In Christianity God eventually became defined as having three persons in one:

In this case Hanson and Hanson (1989) argue:

Hanson and Hanson (1989) also argue:

No wonder, as Newman said, the Church must teach first before the Bible is read

However, this is a tricky one:

Cultural change
and Relativism

We not only see how the developments that produced the Bible lead on to a legitimate relativist view of its totality, but also that this relativism happens because of the cultural gulf between us and them
Relativism can mean a philosophy of no truth existing that is objective, or in a lesser sense can simply mean that everything is open to vigorous questioning without any guarantee of what the emergent truth/s will be

The question then is what remains of the Bible:

Clearly the attitude one takes to the whole given canon depends on:

An alternative is to accept:

The strange time & place
into the New Testament

So as a quickie immersion this looks at the development of eschatological messianic fears and hopes that was the strange time of Jesus (perhaps who might be better called Yeshua as a way of realising his and the time's strangeness and difference)

There is a history behind Jesus and which surrounded him:

So what can be said of the "Word" who became, according to doctrine, fully God and fully Man is actually quite limited:

There is the apparent clincher of the resurrection which involves at its heart reference back to legitimating texts:

Of course there could well be a core experience demanding a response but we do not know what the core experience might have been because the way that the Bible is embellished by its writers:


Presumably what one thinks, and in particular whether one wishes to accept the guidance of a doctrinal Church, and to so use the content of the whole Bible, is, in the end, a matter for personal conscience
It is further a question whether a critical understanding of the Bible is compatible with the historic faith at different eschatological and doctrinal stages or whether inevitably intelligent faith has changed in our time, whether the Churches officially admit this or not



Holy Bible: Containing Old and New Testaments, Revised Standard Version, Collins

Cupitt, D. (1979), The Debate about Christ, SCM Press.

Edwards, D. (1989), Tradition and Truth: The Challenge of England's Radical Theologians 1962-1989, Hodder and Stoughton, particularly replies by John Bowden, 291-296, and Dennis Nineham, 296-306.

Hanson, A. T. and Hanson, A. P. C. (1989), The Bible Without Illusions, SCM Press.

Hodge, S. (2001), The Dead Sea Scrolls: An Introductory Guide, Piatkus, particularly 200-218 on 'The End of Days and Messianism'.

Kennedy, L. (1999), All in the Mind: A Farewell to God, Sceptre, especially 45-81.

Lindars, B. (1961), New Testament Apologetic: The Doctrinal Significance of Old Testament Quotations, SCM Press.


Initial motive
Critical Survey
Tanakh Pentateuch Historical Poetical Major Prophets Minor Prophets
NT Gospels Early Church Paul's Letters Other Letters Prophetic
Arguments and Issues
Was understood Discerning approach Canon Against fundamentalism
Themes and claims Change Strange times Resurrection Conclusion?