Week of Proper 4: Friday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  A Handwritten Bible in Latin

May We Revere the Bible, Not Make It An Idol

JUNE 5, 2020


2 Timothy 3:10-17 (Revised English Bible):

But you, my son, have observed closely my teaching and manner of life, my resolution, my faithfulness, patience, and spirit of love, and my fortitude under persecution and suffering–all I went through at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, and the persecutions I endured; and from all of them the Lord rescued me.  Persecution will indeed come to everyone who wants to live a godly life as a follower of Christ Jesus, whereas evildoers and charlatans will progress from bad to worse, deceiving and deceived.  But for your part, stand by the truths you have learned them; remember that from early childhood you have been familiar with the sacred writings which have power to make you wise and lead you to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All inspired scripture is has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man of God may be capable and equipped for good work of every kind.

Psalm 119:161-168 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

161 Rulers have persecuted me without a cause,

but my heart stands in awe of your word.

162 I am as glad because of your promise

as one who finds great spoils.

163 As for lies, I hate and abhor them,

but your law is my love.

164 Seven times a day do I praise you,

because of your righteous judgments.

165 Great peace have they who love your law;

for them there is no stumbling block.

166 I have hoped for your salvation, O LORD,

and I have fulfilled your commandments.

167 I have kept your decrees

and I have loved them deeply.

168 I have kept your commandments and decrees,

for all my ways are before you.

Mark 12:35-37 (Revised English Bible):

As he taught in the temple, Jesus went on to say, “How can the scribes maintain that the Messiah is a son of David?  It was David himself who said, when inspired by the Holy Spirit,

The Lord said to my Lord,

‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’

David calls himself ‘Lord’; how can he be David’s son?”


The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 4:  Friday, Year 1:



Someone I met recently offered an observation:  Do not many public displays of the Ten Commandments constitute graven images, something one of those commandments forbids?  This thought had not occurred to me, but I conclude that he was correct.

Anything can be an idol if one makes it that.  A stone monument to the Ten Commandments is certainly graven, and it seems to be an image.  Indeed, one can focus so much on such a monument or even a cheap yard sign bearing the traditional English-language text of the Commandments that one transforms it into an idol, focusing on it instead of on God.

Likewise, the Bible can become an idol.  This was neither Paul’s intention nor a consequence of his actions.  In fact, he did not think of his writings as scriptural.  For him the Bible was the Hebrew Scriptures.  The Gospels and other texts now in the New Testament did not exist until after Paul died.  This is useful to recall when reading any part of the New Testament.  We who stand on tradition need to recall that there was a time when some of these traditions did not yet exist.

Pay attention:  I am about to do something quite rare–compliment the New International Version.  It does, however, offer the best translation of 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training and righteousness….

To inspire is to breathe.

As I read the Pauline epistles I find sublime passages, profound teachings (many of them rooted in particular cultural contexts), and statements one who knew he was writing scripture would not make.  Paul’s attitude toward marriage (full of grief–“I would spare you that,” he wrote–and better than fornication–consult 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 28) does not sound like the ringing endorsement of that institution the Church proclaims.  Actually, those candid comments recommend Paul to me; he was not a poseur.

The bottom line is that God breathed through Paul and the other biblical authors.  God still breathes through their writings.  May we not ossify our traditions into idols, but rather embrace a living faith and relationship with the God who has embraced us.



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