Ephiphany and the Bible

On Friday, the Church celebrated the feast of Epiphany, reveling in Christ’s revelation to the Gentiles, and to the world. This day marks his going public, the laying bare of the secret long hid in the counsels of God and only whispered in the prophets.

Isaiah looked forward to Epiphany: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.’

John rejoiced in Epiphany: ‘In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.’

If you stand back a moment, it really is marvelous to consider that the light of Christ has continued to shine for two millennia. Plenty of historically significant figures have lit up the night like flares, only to dissipate into the atmosphere. The risen Christ continues to shine, illuminating the world these many centuries later as the Spirit bears witness to him in the world.

Nowhere has the Spirit’s witness to Jesus been as brilliant as in the writing, editing, collecting, transmitting, translating, reading and interpreting of the Bible. As we rejoice in the light of Christ at Epiphany, we do well to offer thanks to God for giving us the Scriptures, in whose light we see the light of Christ.

We do well, too, to offer thanks for those Renaissance and Reformation scholars who devoted themselves to the textual criticism and translation of the Bible. In a day of hermeneutical pluralism, it is easy to lament the very accessibility of Scripture in light of its easy abuse. (See Dan Treier’s wise words.) But that is a baby and bathwater moment, a moment of stark, myopic ingratitude.

In the sixteenth century, the Bible was made available like never before. It was read and heard by people who didn’t know Latin, and it re-entered the warp and woof of daily Christian life. Timothy George’s Reading Scripture with the Reformers considers the Bible’s place in that epochal century. (Thanks to IVP Academic for a review copy.)

George’s book introduces IVP’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture (a series which follows IVP’s justly praised Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture), and one of his chief burdens is to demonstrate that ‘the principle of sola scriptura did not mean that the study of the Bible should be divorced from interaction with its other readers and interpreters across the ages. But the new understanding of the place of the Bible in the life of the church did mean the rejection of the particular synthesis of Scripture, tradition and papal authority that had come to prevail in the western church during the late Middle Ages.’

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