As Paul tells it ...

Ethical Issues

The 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,, 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.

Contents of Jesus Traditions

A Note on the Authority of Scripture

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. 


Revised December 6, 2003


Contents of Jesus Traditions



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