Nothing Beyond What is Written?
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Starling poses a hermeneutical question with succinct style difficult to otherwise replicate, “Should we (can we, need we) move “beyond the Bible” to theology? If we should, how can this task be performed in a manner that is faithfal to the Bible as authoritative Scripture and not a presumptuous departure from it?”1

The article, Nothing Beyond What is Written, attempts to shed some Pauline light on the matter. The question has been addressed by scholars such as Howard Marshall, Kevin Vanhoozer, and my own professor, William Webb. How is it that we can be faithful to the biblical intent (‘get to the heart of matters’)?

‘Are we faithful to the ScripturesThe sacred writings of Christianity: particularly the... when we are faithful to their instructions and intent,’ or ‘does being faithful to their intent (a progressive social ethic) in light of further analysis, allow us to depart from their precise teaching at junctures?’

Paul gives us insight into a kind of ancient correspondence course, with “reports that he has received from Corinth (e.g., 1:11; 5:1; 11:18) and a letter the Corinthians have written to him (e.g., 1 Cor. 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1,12).” (Ibid.).

And, Paul’s ten, ‘abrasive’ rhetorical questions in the letter, ‘Do you not know?’ create for us what Starling calls a ‘remedial education’, saying, “[1 Corinthians gives us] a (remedial) education in how to think and speak Christianly. If there is anywhere in the NT where it is worth asking whether doing theology is warranted and seeking guidance in this task, I Corinthians is that place. (pg. 47).” Paul himself says he says ‘nothing beyond what is written’ (1 Cor. 4:6), ‘the large choir’ of Scriptural voices.

Whatever kind of education is out there, Paul seems to want to address it, as per 1:20, 2 And, none of the education and grandeur, nor the wisdom of the world compares to God’s word in Scripture. “For those who wish to go ‘،beyond the Bible” to theology, the main message of chaps. 1-4 is cautionary in nature. Those who seek to build anything within God’s church (theological systems included) should work in fear and trembling before him, resisting the delusion that they could im- prove on his plans and specifications by adding some flourish of their own that goes “beyond what is written.”3

Therefore, we should be very cautious not to go beyond Scripture, and presume our ideas about progress, and technology and the world contradict the direct warrant and revelation of Scripture.

“Where Christian theology is informed and disciplined by a hermeneutic of this sort [a naively positivist epistemology], Paul’s example in I Corinthians suggests that it serves a legitimate and necessary fimction within the life of the church; where theoloogy pursues a course that seems wiser in its own eyes, I Corinthians pronounces a sober warning that it is likely, at best, to amount to nothing more than empty, puffed-up talk.”4


  1. Starling, David. 2014. “‘Nothing beyond what is written’?: I Corinthians and the hermeneutics of early Christian theologia.” Journal Of Theological Interpretation 8, no. 1: 45-62. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed January 13, 2018). 45.
  2. “Whatever may have been the precise referents that Paul had in mind for “the one who is wise,” “the scribe,” and “the debater of this age” (v 20), it seems clear that by piling up a list o f such terms side by side he is intending to convey a sense of comprehensiveness: it is “[all] the wisdom of [all] the world” that God has made foolish, not just the fancy talk of the sophists.” pg. 51
  3. pg. 54
  4. pg. 62
News Reporter
From Madison, Wisconsin. B.A. Biblical Studies: Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. M.Div. Student at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario.

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