As the Rev. Thomas Bernard put it, speaking in 1864 at the University of Oxford, upon the delivery of any sermon “a cloud of questions rises round us which must be dissipated while it is gathering, but which will still gather while it is being dissipated. Thus the preaching of the words of life to the people is evermore attended by an incidental necessity for extensive and various discussion.” As the same is true whenever anyone undertakes serious study of the Bible, theological thought, and the history of our faith, the short essays below are offered to extend that “various discussion” along a number of interesting rabbit trails.
All of these questions were asked by participants in classes or discussions that I either led or attended, and the answers, though not intended to be authoritative or even complete, are the fruit of my digging among my books and bugging those who know more than I do about these things. If you are an autodidact — one who is studying on your own as an adult, perhaps with limited time, library, and people to ask — you know how frustrating it is to bump into a curious or significant question and get stuck Googling for an answer. If that route is unsatisfying, check the list below…and if you still don’t see something helpful, try asking in the comment section further below, and I’ll see what I can put together for you. No question is a stupid question, even if you are highly self-conscious of your own ignorance in the asking of it. (How will you ever move past not-knowing if you don’t do a little research, I ask!)
(Note that first-time commenters will have to be screened, so don’t be surprised if your comment doesn’t pop up right off. If you don’t wish to post a question in this public forum, just indicate that you have one and I’ll write you privately; I can see your email backstage when you comment, so don’t write that in the combox.)
Notes to the Autodidacts Out There
Theology & Biblical Studies