Christian spirituality

Words About the Bible

What do they really mean?

the Bible > > A Vocabulary About the Bible

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Describing the Bible's Role For Christians

There are many words that Christians use when they describe what the Bible means to their teachings, their faith, and the Christian way(s) of life. The terms point out ways to evaluate and learn from the Bible, how to use and not use it, how to teach others with it. They're often found in official statements of faith, online Twitter fights, and in debates about the Bible. Some of these terms are badly abused, others aren't used anywhere near enough, and some you may never have heard in this context. But unless you had a a drill sergeant for a Sunday School teacher, you'd find it hopeless to know their meanings. So, here I go, trying to succeed where others have failed for 2000 years, to slay the Fire-Breathing Jargon.

Christians read the Bible to learn what God says through it about ourselves, world, and God. This is done through the story of the Israelites and of the earliest Christians. Most centrally of all, it is done through what the early church taught about Jesus of Nazareth's life, death, and return to the living, at first by those who were there and then by those they told it to. We look to the Bible so the Spirit can show us what it is to follow Jesus the Christ. We look to the Scriptures to help us sort out our own lives and deeds, as families, as individual persons, and together as the gathered followers of Jesus.

This page is a glossary for what Christians say about the Bible itself, so that when you hear or see or use these words, you'll better know what they mean. The better-known vocabulary has a lot of nuance to it, built up over the course of centuries. Yet people find it so easy to use them carelessly, or worse, to attack people. I'll also offer here some other terms that may be more helpful than the usual ones. The lesser-known terms may point to a way past the usual arguments about the Bible, to a more gainful point of view.

Try this: click or tap on the terms in the buttons below. Maybe you see a word and say, "why would they say that about the Bible?" Or, "what is ...?" Or, maybe "yeah, right..." or "whatever...". Click on its button and see; the word may not mean quite what you think. You might even already think this about the Bible but didn't have a word for it.

A Vocabulary on the Role of the Bible

Is there something I've written about these words that seems off-kilter, or is there something important that's missing? Maybe your organization's statements of faith, or your experience in study, use other words you prize or despise? Or maybe suggest other words or approaches toward the Bible that I've missed? Or that a particular word or group of words should be included or stricken from the vocabulary? Email me at this link. I hope to have a new page responding to your comments in detail sometime by the end of 2016, though response has been light so far. (C'mon. You have something to say; say it!) Come back and see what's on it.

Elsewhere on the site :

There's also a PDF booklet of the pages on scripture, including most of these definitions.