Lent Lecture series 'How the Bible came about' with David Baldwin & Revd John Bennett.
The meeting was opened with a warm welcome from Rev Antony Walker, minister at Spalding Baptist church. The lecture was also made available as an audio download via the Spalding Baptist church website.
David Baldwin offered a background for the series, noting the many cultural versions of the Christian Bible across orthodox, Catholic and protestant traditions with further variations in places such as Syria and Ethiopia.
The way the Codex and Canon of scripture were drawn up revealed how those responsible for the make up of the Bible were devoted to the cause of helping readers clearly receive God's revelation of himself. David suggested that the criteria used to include the individual books in the Bible today were:
* that the book or epistle was written by an apostle of an apostle’s close associate
* the book was in line with traditional Christian teachings
* that the book had to be widely used in the church and recognised as authoritative – a book that ordinary Christians felt gave a revelation of God.
The Old Testament varies in number of individual books dependant on country and culture; various collators included and excluded books for theological reasons. The Bible authorised by King James was drawn up for various reasons, providing a rich basis for faith and legal life in Great Britain and beyond.
Rev John Bennett continued the Lecture by exploring the language of the New Testament. John noted how the first Christian writings were completed in the first 25 years of Jesus life and resurrection. St Paul had no scroll on the life and teachings of Jesus; he and the early Christians relied on the remembered stories – there was no need to write things done because they expected Jesus to return again.
In 70 AD, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem brought an end to sacrifices to God and a large part of the Jewish tradition. It is reckoned that just two strands survived: contemporary Judaism can be traced back to the Pharisees of that time. The second strand can be traced back to the early Christians who didn’t need to worship in the temple.
Christians increasingly wondered about a change in time-scales for Jesus’ second coming and, rather than relying on spoken stories, began to write things down.
Mark’s gospel was written first around 65-70 AD. It was written with the help of Papias – the interpreter of Peter.
Matthew and Luke (70-80 AD) used Mark’s gospel as a basis. Matthew had a target audience of Jewish Christians, shortening his version of the events and adding in more detail. Luke’s work was written in two parts: firstly the gospel and then the Acts of the Apostles as a part II.
80-90 AD)concentrates on the divinity of Christ with many 'I am' phrases, no parables and ‘signs’ rather than miracles.
John went further by describing a picture on the projection screen showing a sample of John 18 31-33 (left) and 37-38 from the John Rylands Uni Library, Manchester – the oldest surviving fragment of the gospel from 120 AD – and described his wonder at seeing something so close to the time of writing.
David concluded the first lecture with some key dates in the life of the Bible. In 313 AD, the Bible changed the way Christianity was viewed by society. Roman emperor Constantine ordered 50 Bibles for the churches he planned to build in his new capital Constantinople.
The question at the time was which books should be included in the Bible; the result was a mixture of the books used and accepted by people along with some considered questionable. Those books considered unreliable were left out.
The Lecture was followed by refreshments and small group discussions in the church hall, based around these questions:
* Is the Bible one book or many books?
* Why does it matter when the books of the Bible were written – or who wrote them?
* Why should Christians read the Old Testament?
* Do we behave as if all the parts / books of the Bible are equally the word of God?
* What difference would it make to Christian Faith if the books Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John and Jude were not in the New Testament?