Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Toledo

Authority and the Bible (REL 2350)

Professor:  Richard R. Gaillardetz, Ph.D.
Office:  Scott Hall 3004 (x. 2055)

Professor's web page:
Office Hours:  Tue.,     9:30-10:30am
Wed.,  9-noon Thur.,  9:30-10:30am
Class Times:   T-TH , 11:00-12:15pm

Course Description

This course will consider the diverse sources of religious authority appealed to within the various Christian traditions.  Special attention will be given to the sometimes divergent claims to the authority of the bible and the differences in the various Christian traditions regarding how biblical authority is to be interpreted and applied.  Finally this course will explore those Christian traditions which augment the authority of the bible with appeals to the authority of church office and/ or church tradition. 

Course Objectives

• To help students appreciate the different understandings of the role and authority of the bible within the Christian tradition.
• To help students understand the way in which complementary sources of authority (e.g. creeds, dogmas, doctrines, church office, or tradition) are also appealed to in various Christian traditions. 

Course Outline

• The Bible as a Sacred Text
• Origins of the Bible
• The Books that “Didn’t Get In”
• Canons, Texts and the Challenge of Translation
• Understandings of Biblical Inspiration
• Understandings of Biblical Inerrancy
• Denominational Perspectives on the Authority of Scripture
• The History of Biblical Interpretation
• The History of the Bible as Text
• The Relationship between Scripture and Tradition
• A Church Teaching Office
• The Authority of Creeds, Dogma and Doctrine


• The Bible.  [acceptable translations include the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New American Bible (NAB), and the New International Version (NIV)] 
• Blaisdell, Charles R., ed.  Conservative, Moderate, Liberal:  The Biblical Authority Debate.  St. Louis, CBP Press, 1990.  ISBN:  0-8272-0455-8.
• Gaillardetz, Richard R.  By What Authority?  A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium and the Sense of the Faithful.   Collegeville:  Liturgical Press, 2003.  ISBN:  0-8146-2872-9
• Hamel, Christopher de.  The Book.  A History of the Bible.  London:  Phaidon Press, 2001.  Paperback Edition.  ISBN:  0714845248|

Online Documents:

• Pontifical Biblical Commission.  The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church.  Access online at:
• The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.  Access online at:
Attendance Policy
• Students are expected to attend class.  Attendance will be recorded by way of a sign-in sheet that will be distributed at the beginning of class.  It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that they sign the sheet each class day.  Six absences will result in a two-step grade reduction (e.g., from ‘B+’ to ‘B-’) to the final course grade.  Ten absences will result in a grade of “F” for the course, since ten absences represents missing a full third of the course.  The only excused absences will be for 1) university sponsored events, 2) hospitalization or 3) death in the family.  I recognize that these exceptions exclude many important and worthwhile reasons for missing class including personal illness that does not require hospitalization or the illness of one’s children.  That is why students would be wise to hold some absences “in reserve” for those special situations.

Assignments and Assessments

• Students are expected to do all the assigned reading.
• There will be two short (30 min.) quizzes.
• There will be a mid-term exam and a final exam.
Grade Distribution
First Quiz    20%
Mid-term Exam  30%
Second Quiz   20%
Final Exam.   30%
Last Updated: 3/22/15