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Scripture

One nickname for members of the Holy Club was 'Bible Moths'. John Wesley called himself homo unius libri, 'a man of one book', i.e. the Bible, but was so widely read that he clearly meant that Scripture was the primary, rather than the exclusive authority for him. In Outler's 'Wesleyan Quadrilateral' it takes precedence over, but is associated with, reason, experience and tradition. In their early years both John and Charles Wesley were given to seeking guidance by opening on a text at random. Both were steeped in the Greek NT. But John Wesley was far from uncritical in his acceptance of the Bible as authoritative, rejecting parts of the Psalms as being 'highly improper for the mouths of a Christian Congregation'. Both the Wesley brothers had read Dr. Robert Gell's Essay toward the Amendment of the Last English Translation of the Bible (1659), which was among the books the preachers were recommended to read at the Conference of 1744. In compiling his Explanatory Notes upon the NT (1754), John Wesley drew on the revised Greek text of J.A. Bengel (1687-1752) in making his own revised English version and on Bengel's commentary for the notes themselves. His translation, which he also published separately in 1790, as probably his last publication, anticipated the Revised Version of 1881 at many points.

Other early commentaries were produced by Thomas Coke, Adam Clarke and Joseph Benson. During most of the nineteenth century Methodist scholars remained conservative in their biblical exegesis. The Wesley Bible Union was founded in 1913 to oppose George Jackson's qualified advocacy of modern biblical scholarship. A.S. Peake was largely instrumental in making critical biblical scholarship acceptable within PM and beyond. Other Methodist scholars who have made major contributions to biblical studies in the twentieth century include George W. Anderson, C. Kingsley Barrett, Wilbert F. Howard, William F. Moulton, Christopher R. North, Norman H. Snaith, Vincent Taylor and Morna Hooker-Stacey. Cyril S. Rodd was editor of the Expository Times from 1975 to 2001.

A report on 'the nature of authority and the place of the Bible in the Methodist Church' was presented to the Conference of 1998 and published under the title A Lamp to my Feet and a Light to my Path.

Sources

  • C.W. Williams, John Wesley's Theology Today (1960) pp.23-28
  • James T. Clemons, 'Was John Wesley a Biblical Literalist?', in Epworth Review, 6, September 1979, pp.61-69
  • Raymond L. Shelton, 'John Wesley's Approach to Scripture in historical perspective', in Wesleyan Theological Journal, 16 (1981), pp.23-50
  • Daryl McCarthy, 'Early Wesleyan Views of Scripture', in Wesleyan Theological Journal, 16 (1981) pp,95-105
  • Duncan S. Ferguson, 'John Wesley on Scripture: the hermeneutics of pietism', in Methodist History, 22 (1983-84) pp.234-45
  • R.L. Maddox, Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology (Nashville, 1994) pp.36-40
  • Scott J. Jones, John Wesley's Conception and Use of Scripture (Nashville, 1995)
  • William J. Abraham, 'John Wesley's conception and use of scripture', in Wesleyan Theological Journal, 33:1 (Spring, 1998) pp.5-13
  • R.P. Thompson, 'John Wesley's Concept of Inspiration and Literary-critical Approaches to Scripture', in Wesleyan Theological Journal, 34:1 (Spring 1999), pp.151-76
  • Morna D. Hooker-Stacey, 'Methodism's Contribution to New Testament Scholarship', in Epworth Review, 27:1 (January, 2000), pp.56-62
  • Stephen B. Dawes, 'John Wesley and the Bible', in WHS Proceedings, 54 pp.1-10
  • Brian E. Beck, Exploring Methodism's Heritage: the story of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies (Nashville, 2004) pp.82-91
  • Donald A. Bullen, A Man of One Book? John Wesley's Interpretation and Use of the Bible (2007)

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Subject

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