By Kevin Leland
Bible believing Christians fall into more than a few categories. There is quite a range of interpretation across and even within the different Christian denominations. These differences weaken us as a unified body, and as a perfect church. Theological hair splitting does nothing for building the church.
Moravians say: “In necessariis unitas; in non-necessariis libertas; in utrisque caritas”
There is one fundamentalist, “Bible only”column that I spent a good number of years in before asking myself this same question:
Am I allowed, as a Bible believing Christian, to read the Dead Sea Scrolls? And, how about the Apocrypha? The Catholics have that in their Bibles. Did any of the other Apostles write a Gospel? Are the Gnostic Gospels -Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Thomas, real? Or, is Sola Scriptura the way to go?
Sola Scriptura? -Click here for definition
The answer: No. Sola Scriptura is NOT the way to go. This realization that I believe was from the Holy Spirit, dropped on me like a pillow case full of bricks when I read the Church Fathers.
Think about it. Saul of Tarsus, later named Paul, who got knocked off his high horse by the post-ascended Lord while on his way to persecute some Christians in the name of Jewish tradition, converted. He was then trained by Peter and other original and next generation disciples. He wrote two thirds of the New Testament, while the daughters of Phillip, one of the Lord’s beloved disciples, were known prophetesses. What about letters that were written by other second generation disciples? Look into it. You will be amazed.
WARNING: Don’t be led astray. The canonized books of the Bible are still quintessential if not all inclusive. The first eighteen verses of the Gospel of John, alone, could be studied from sun-up to sun-down for a lifetime before you will have squeezed out every drop of truth. Focus on the Bible. Focus on the Gospel.
I have only scratched the surface of the Dead Sea Scrolls in my Bible studies. I recommend having a Kung-Fu grip, as in a few studies in each book of the Bible, before reading the Church Fathers. Then, read early church history, by Eusebius.
Include the writings of ancient Middle Eastern historian: Josephus.
ANOTHER WARNING: There is an account of the siege that the Lord forewarned about while carrying his cross to Golgatha. Josephus describes a scene of cannibalism during this siege, circa 70 AD. It is the most horrific thing that I have ever read, and is an ancient commentary on modern abortion.
Then, you should read enough of the background of the Gnostic Gospels, and skim through enough of them to assure yourself that they are not genuine, and are in fact heretical. This can bolster your ability to understand heresy in terms outside of the Inquisition. There is also a virtuous face to the early Christian battles against real heresy. It will also give you insight to how the scripture that got included in the Bible we know today was sifted out of the bogus stuff back 1,000 years before Luther, Protestantism and sola scriptura.
Now tackle the Apocryphal scriptures. You’ll see what is unfolding with that. Did you know the book of Revelation almost ended up in the Apocrypha?
NOW study the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are exciting. Still way out of my league, but I truly believe there is some important understanding regarding the things of God -ripe for the discovering! I think it is wise to get a good foundation, one that could take decades to build; and only then really delve into the Dead Sea Scrolls. I still have a long way to go myself.
I also recommend a sneak peak. Just a brief overview is good ammunition against Bible detractors who taunt us with “mistranslation” and “the telephone game.” These provably, by carbon dating, 2000 year old papyrus manuscripts, including Old Testament Books -are pretty fricken’ close to what we got today! I recommend a book that is limited in commentary, and is long on straight translation.