Philosophy and Religious Studies Program

Bible and Church Authority (REL 2350)

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 Topics

  • 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

Books that have been used for this course:

  • 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 that have been used for this course:

Last Updated: 7/7/23