Early Christian Origins: Studies in Honor of Harold R. Willoughby

By Allen Wikgren | Go to book overview

XIV
HISTORY AND SCRIPTURE

Allen Wikgren UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

Christianity has been called the religion of a book, and there is a high degree of truth in the statement, especially with reference to its Protestant forms. The earliest Christians as Jews inherited among other things a body of Scripture which they naturally adopted and used as their own. In spite of voices to the contrary--such as in Marcionism--they retained this heritage even as Gentiles, recognizing and affirming as they did their religious continuity with the past. But the new, spirit-guided movement could not be contained in old wineskins; a newly centered and motivated faith called for new expression. This in turn, however, gave rise to written documents, which as time passed became the sacred books of the new Way. How these, joined to the old, became Christian Scripture and normative for the faith is a wellknown story.

But the resulting situation, especially in view of developments in post-Reformation Protestantism, raised serious problems about the nature and function of this Bible. A Christian Scripture which included the "Old Testament" continued to be a vexing item, with some revival of Marcionite tendencies on the one hand to depreciate or eliminate the "Old," e.g., by Harnack and Schleiermacher, and with various attempts more recently on the other hand to define a "unity" of the Bible.1 Serious questions also have continued to be

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1
Cf., e.g., C. H. Dodd, The Authority of the Bible ( London, 1928); A. M. Hunter , The Unity of the New Testament ( London, 1943); R. E. Davies, The Problem of Authority in the Continental Reformers ( London, 1926); A. G. Hebert, The Authority of the Old Testament ( London, 1947); J. W. C. Wand, The Authority of the Scriptures ( London, 1949); Gunnar Ostborn, Cult and Cannon ( Uppsala, 1950); R. R. Williams, Authority in the Apostolic Age ( London, 1950); H. H. Rowley , The Unity of the Bible ( London, 1953); A. Richardson and W. Schweizer, eds., Biblical Authority for Today ( London, 1951); J. K. S. Reid, The Authority ofthe Scriptures

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