Quakers and the Bible


And I saw that none could read John’s words aright and with a true understanding of them, but in and with the same divine Spirit by which John spoke them, and by his burning, shining light, which is sent from God.
George Fox, Journal, Nickals edition, p. 32


Friends believe that the Bible is opened to us when we enter into “the spirit in which it was given forth,” that is, when we read it with an inward eye to the Light within us, the same Light that prompted the prophets and writers of scripture in the first place, and we open ourselves to the truths they have tried to convey.

In the Spirit’s opening, the truth and power of the words are revealed, not just to us but in us. It is the Holy Spirit that unlocks the spirit of the Bible and it takes us beyond the letter.

Because that Spirit is always trying to enlighten us, Friends do not treat the Bible as God’s final revelation. Yet it remains for many Friends a reliable revelation. And in any event, many of us find that the reading and study of the Bible can be a powerful vehicle for God’s in-breaking grace, bringing divine openings, guidance, and comfort.

Giving priority to inward experience of the Spirit has resulted in greater freedom in biblical interpretation and less slavish adherence to its literal meaning among many Friends than in some Christian communities. Some Friends were early adopters of the “scientific” tools of biblical study that emerged in the 19th century and most Friends do not read the Bible literally.

It must be said, however, that many evangelical Friends do read the Bible literally, and some Friends have abandoned the Bible as a religious authority altogether, for a variety of reasons, even though our tradition rests upon it and is permeated by its language.

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