The Scriptures

The books of the Old and New Testament are understood by Christians to be the written word of God, the Scriptures. They are “more to be desired . . . than gold”; they are the means that the Holy Spirit uses for "converting the soul," "making wise the simple," and "rejoicing the heart" (Psalm 19:7-10).

The Anglican tradition affirms the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. In the Thirty-Nine Articles, which is the confessional statement for Anglican churches, Article VI is about the Bible. It begins this way: "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."

This commitment to the Scriptures is made visible in our life together. In the Anglican tradition, with the sacraments, the central element in the formation of Christians is the reading and preaching of the Scriptures within the church. The centrality of the Scriptures is evident from the services of the Book of Common Prayer, for most of the words that we hear are taken directly from the Scriptures, especially from the Psalms.

This insistence on hearing the word of God is not, in the end, just about hearing. We hear the word of God so it will shape what we love, so it will change our lives, so we will be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22).

None of this is happens overnight. That is why the Scriptures so often speak of how we receive them in metaphors of growth and patient cultivation, as a seed is planted and in time grows into a mature and fruit-bearing plant or tree (e.g., Psalm 1:3; Matthew 13:23). In this growth, there is delight. Thus the Scriptures also speak of how we receive them in terms of tasting and sweetness (e.g., Psalm 19:10).

We therefore pray, in the words of the collect for the Second Sunday in Advent:

"Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."

What about the Apocrypha?

On certain days the lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer appoints a reading from the deuterocanonical books, also called the Apocrypha. These are ancient books that were written between the Old and New Testaments. They were well-known to the New Testament authors, who often make allusions to them. And they have been read in the church since the very earliest centuries after Christ. In the Anglican tradition, these books are still read in church, but they are not treated as canonical Scripture like the Old and New Testaments. In the words of our Anglican doctrinal statement, the Thirty-Nine Articles, we do not read the Apocrypha "to establish any doctrine," but rather for "instruction" and "example of life" (Article 6).

What Bible translation do you use?

In our Sunday morning services, the lesson, epistle, and gospel are read from the King James Version. That version is especially suited to reading aloud in public worship, partly because of its rhythms and pacing, but also because it tends not to paraphrase away the imagery and physicality of the biblical text. And the King James Version fits with our traditional prayer book services. But no translation is best for every purpose, and a variety of versions are used in our Bible studies and in informal services of Morning and Evening Prayer. We read the Psalms from the Coverdale Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer.