• I would love to know more about how the early Christians "viewed" or "handled" writings such as the Gospel of Mark (probably the first of the gospels, written very early on), or Luke/Acts written by "Dr. Luke" the physician. We know these were not written by apostles - although the apostles were likely available to the authors as resources. They are not written by eyewitnesses of all the events - but by men who perhaps felt compelled to write down what was probably being told and retold in the church gatherings through oral tradition. We know very little about the skills and practices of oral tradition in our electronic "Google it" information age. I imagine it required a lot of patience, listening, and reciting in the group gatherings with careful attention to detail - all of which would fail our modern-day tests for a good church meeting, right? But that's part of our problem - which I'll come back to in a minute. 

    In the Old Testament era(s), there were signs and wonders to confirm the validity of God's prophets to the immediate audiences, so that their messages carried the weight of "thus saith the Lord". In the New Testament era, where signs and wonders were performed through the "common" worshippers by the Spirit that has been poured out on all flesh, there seemed to be a sense that the Lord himself could speak at any moment through any believer. However, the message still had to be tested against what God had already revealed (1 Thess 5:19-22). That testing wasn't originally by a council, but by every fellowship and believer - all of whom had access to the same Spirit and Lord.

    My point about the "neatness" of our concept of the Bible today is this. Wrapping a subset of writings inside one leather cover, giving the collection a name (The Bible), and declaring it (by the authority of church history) to be the Word of God is not what makes it so. What makes it so or not so is whether or not it truly came from God. The requirement to ask that question did not magically end after the 1st century. I believe we are just as responsible for testing and retesting the writings as the earliest churches were. Don't worry - those writings have passed a lot of generations of testing. But that doesn't mean we can stop thinking about it - because EVERY generation needs to rest on a firmer foundation than "church history says so". Now granted, the testing is hard work - but well worth the effort. By patiently reading, comparing, thinking, praying, teaching, discovering, arguing, debating, and wrestling together in community over the teachings that were written down, we find God masterfully and sovereignly revealing Himself with a unified message that travels in and through the messy lives and languages of human beings. So coming back to our church meetings - how will they look differently if we are doing that work together?