Tradition, (living) Scripture, and a Community of the Spirit

In his book The Living Text of the Gospels D.C. Parker writes:  “Scripture is tradition.” (p. 207)

“What is above all to be emphasized is that any study must start with the fact that [what Christians have] is a manuscript tradition.”  (p. 212)  And “the tradition is manifold.  There are four quite different Gospels, none with a claim to authority over the other three; there is no authoritative text beyond the manuscripts which we may follow without further thought.  There is a manifold tradition to be studied and from which we may learn.  But once that is done, the people of God have to make up their own minds.  There is no authoritative text to provide a short cut.”  (p. 212)

“Rather than looking for right and wrong readings, and with them for right or wrong beliefs and practices, the way is open for the possibility that the church is the community of the Spirit even in its multiplicities of texts, one might say in its corruptions and its restorations.”  (p. 212)

May God help the community of the Spirit to be as good as its good texts and help it to ignore (without deposing of) those texts which are bad for the world that God so loves.

Big “Bible Believers” Have Some Big Problems Which Can’t Be Solved

“The fact that there are textual problems is the first and foremost fact about Jesus’ sayings.”

“Generally, debate has centered on the meaning of a single authoritative text.  But it will soon become plain [from reading this book] that such a text does not exist today, and never has existed, and that therefore the theological castles built on such a text are castles in the air.”

“There are also variations within the manuscript traditions of each Gospel passage.  Sometimes . . . the differences between the manuscripts of one passage are greater than those between our printed Gospels.  The problem is not simply one of explaining the differences between Matthew, Mark and Luke. . . The second problem is that in general an equivalence has been assumed in the meaning of such words as ‘divorce” and adultery’ between our culture and those of early Christianity.  A study of the manuscripts shows this set of presuppositions to be gravely mistaken.”

(Emphasis mine, pp. 76-77)

I'm not the only Christian who hasn't liked parts of the Bible.

I’m in good company; more than a few Christians have not liked parts of the Bible. 

Consider Martin Luther.  He called the Epistle of James “an epistle of straw” and had harsh words for the book of Revelation.  Luther said he couldn’t detect that the Holy Spirit produced the book of Revelation.

Apparently many other Christians had doubts about Revelation.  In his book, An Introduction to the New Testament Manuscripts and their Texts, D. C. Parker notes that there are fewer manuscripts of Revelation than of any other part of the New Testament, that Revelation was never a part of the Greek lectionary, that many of its copies are part of collections of non-biblical material, and that in addition to manuscripts with 666 we have manuscripts with 616, 617, 646 and 690.  He concludes, “It is probably the fact that it is so much more dramatic that leads one to suppose that an original 616 was replaced by 666 than the reverse.”   Biblical scholars speak of “the best manuscript/s” but we really can’t be sure about our manuscript choices.   I just find it interesting any time an ancient Christian didn’t like a text or manuscript.