How and why did the word ‘holy’ get in front of the word ‘bible’?


Question & Answer

Q: By Nicolaas
How and why did the word ‘holy’ get in front of the word ‘bible’?  I ask this because in my church the Bible is given immense authority with the word ‘holy’ and is then used by our church leaders to tell is us what to do and how to be saved.  Would Progressive Christianity want to remove this word ‘holy’ away from these writings so that our hierarchical church structure can no longer rest on its traditional doctrines and practices?
A: By Kevin G. Thew-Forrester, Ph.D.

Dear Nicolaas,

The words, holy bible, are simply a translation from the Latin, sacra scriptura, which literally means sacred (or holy) writings. For many, these writings are considered holy because people believe a god “out there” dictated them or inspired the authors (and for most of the books we have no idea who the authors are – for we simply have copies of copies of copies) such that they wrote exactly what god prompted them to write. In sum, the writings are viewed as “holy” because god is taken as the author, not human beings.

When this dualistic paradigm guides religious authorities they can then tell you “what to do and how to be saved.” The result is that the word “holy” becomes a rationalization used by religious authorities to terminate discussion, prohibit questioning, all with the supposition that a biblical answer is at hand that has originated directly from a god who dictated the answer.

I find the word “holy” thus understood and used to be misleading and unhelpful. A Progressive Christian response recognizes that these texts have their original power because of their capacity to speak meaningfully to the spiritual journeys of individuals and communities across the ages. As such, they have the potential to function as texts for prayer and liturgy. But – and this is critically important – it is the human community that makes the claim that the various books of the bible have the capacity to inspire based upon their actual impact in peoples’ lives – do they help us to become more whole, more free, more loving? It would be better to say that among the books of the Bible are writings, some of which have the capacity to inspire us and some do not.

The plumb line for any text, within or outside the Bible, is this: is a particular text a Wisdom text? A Wisdom text has the capacity to foster the soul’s growth or unfolding, helping her to realize that she is an utterly unique expression of Being that is present as boundless love. I suggest you check out A New New Testament: A Bible for the Twenty-first Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts, Hal Taussig. It can help you see the Bible in a whole new light.

~ Kevin G. Thew-Forrester, Ph.D.

This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
Kevin G. Thew Forrester, Ph.D. is an Episcopal priest, a student of the Diamond Approach for over a decade, as well as a certified teacher of the Enneagram in the Narrative Tradition. He is the founder of the Healing Arts Center of St. Paul’s Church in Marquette, Michigan, and the author of five books, including “I Have Called You Friends“, “Holding Beauty in My Soul’s Arms“, and “My Heart is a Raging Volcano of Love for You” and “Beyond my Wants, Beyond my Fears: The Soul’s Journey into the Heartland“. Visit Kevin’s Blog: Essential Living: For The Soul’s Journey

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