Confirmation Circle Group: Scripture

October 29, 2017


Pens, post its, journals, roll of tape


Students will:

Before Students Arrive

Welcome and Attendance

Please mark those present in the box below

Names and Warmup

Hook                The Game of Things


Processing:  for Presbyterians, the Bible is best done alone AND in a group. The Brief Statement of Faith says that the Spirit rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture. That means our life as individuals and as a church.

        During the Protestant reformation, people like John Calvin and Martin Luther insisted vehemently that individual Christians ought to have access to the Bible to read on their own in their own language. The norm in the Roman Catholic church at the time was for Scripture to be read only in Latin and only by a priest during worship.

        The invention of the printing press allowed for the publication of new translations of the Bible into German, French, and English.

        At the same time, Presbyterians have always valued the communal reading of Scripture. That means that we hear Scripture read together, in worship, and that we study Scripture together, in Sunday school, home Bible studies, and lots of other ways. Presbyterians understand the Bible as the church’s book, not a book that individuals should simply interpret for themselves.

Book                The Confession of 1967 on The Bible

  • Do you think the Bible has to be interpreted? Can’t you just read it and understand it? [Read this sentence a few times over out loud, emphasizing different words as you read it, to illustrate that all reading is interpretation. There is no such thing as a literal,  interpretation-free, reading. To read the Bible (or anything) literally is to interpret it. That doesn’t mean that you have to have a fancy degree to understand the Bible. Not at all! For centuries people didn’t read the Bible at all, they only heard it read and learned its stories through pictures. God is not bound by our interpretations.]

  • This says that the Scriptures were given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What form do you imagine that guidance took? Did the Spirit directed peoples’ hands to write specific things down? [Presbyterians don’t believe the Bible is supernatural. Neither do we believe that “the guidance of the Holy Spirit” means that there are absolutely no errors or inconsistencies in the Bible, that the Bible is infallible. There are and it isn’t. We do not insist on understanding a particular mechanism for the Holy Spirit to have guided the Scriptures. Remember that many parts of Scripture, especially the narrative parts, were shared verbally for generation after generation before they were ever written down]

  • What do you know about the language in which the Bible was written? [The Old Testament books of narrative, law, history, poetry, wisdom, and prophets were written in Hebrew. The New Testament--gospels, epistles, and Revelation--were written in Greek.]

  • Can you think of a view of life, history, and the cosmos found in Scripture that we, as 21st century Americans, don’t hold anymore? [We don’t hold to a literal six day creation as described in Genesis. Slavery and the secondary status of women are accepted as normal in lots of Scripture; we don’t hold to those anymore. There are lots more examples here. Only emphasize that our trust in the message of the Scriptures is trust in the God Scripture points to, not in the precision of the text itself]

  • What kinds of tools do you need if you’re going to study the Scriptures with literary and historical understanding? [An understanding of Biblical languages--Greek and Hebrew--helps; commentaries, maps, history, etc. Again, these things are helpful, but The Spirit reads us through Scripture, even if we’ve never seen a Bible atlas, even if we can’t read]

  • The confession is confident that God still speaks to people through the Scriptures today. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is not confident at all and 10 is completely confident, how confident are you in that claim? [Point out that powerful movements for social change, like the civil rights movement in the US, the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and the resistance to the Nazis in Germany, were inspired by Biblical imagery and language. For example, the Exodus story was a powerful focus of slaves fighting for liberation in the United States. Likewise, words of Scripture speak to individuals in times of trouble, like the 23rd Psalm at funerals. It also speaks at important moments like weddings]


“The first step toward reading the Bible with literary and historical understanding is to learn the different kinds of writings that make it up. As a book, the Bible is actually a collection of books, a library of different types of books, all of which express peoples’ experience of God over a long period of time.

“There are stories. Most of the Bible is story, from the early stories of Genesis like the creation of the world, the great flood, and the tower of Babel to the story of the exodus, God’s rescue of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. There are stories about Israel’s kings and its many wars, stories about how Israel was conquered by invading empires and dragged away into exile, then how they were allowed to come home again.

“There is law. Many people are familiar with the 10 Commandments. There is a whole part of the Bible that is just law, precepts given by God to the people of Israel after the exodus that shape their morality for centuries, even still today.

“There is poetry. The book of Psalms contains 150 poems to God, many of which were composed for use in worship. They use rich imagery and speak to a broad range of human experience.

“There is prophecy. The writings of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah record things God said to Israel at important moments in their history, some of them comforting and some of them very disturbing. Prophets spoke to the people for God.

“There are the gospels, four of them. These are stories, but of a particular type. They all tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry, concluding with his death and resurrection.

“There are epistles. These are letters written to the first churches in the decades following Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Apostle Paul is the author of many of them.

“For the next several minutes, I’m going to read you passages of Scripture, and you’re going to move to the spot in the room that you think it belongs to.

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!

(EPISTLE, from Paul’s letter to the Galatians)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

(POETRY, the 23rd Psalm)

Comfort, O comfort my people,

   says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

   and cry to her

that she has served her term,

   that her penalty is paid,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand

   double for all her sins.

(PROPHECY, from Isaiah chapter 40)

Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came on the earth. And Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth. (STORY, from Genesis 7)

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(EPISTLE, from Romans chapter 1, Paul’s letter to the church in Rome)

You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. (LAW, Exodus 20, the giving of the 10 commandments to Israel at Mt. Sinai)

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’* And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (GOSPEL, The Gospel of Mark, chapter 8)

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. (STORY, from Exodus chapter 14, the story of how God led the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry land as they escaped Egypt)

Ah, you are beautiful, my love;

   ah, you are beautiful;

   your eyes are doves.

     Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved,

   truly lovely.

(POETRY, The Song of Solomon chapter 1)

Jesus began to weep. (GOSPEL, The Gospel of John, the story of Lazarus’s death and Jesus’ raising him from the dead)

From among all the land animals, these are the creatures that you may eat. Any animal that has divided hoofs and is cloven-footed and chews the cud—such you may eat. But among those that chew the cud or have divided hoofs, you shall not eat the following: the camel, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you.The rock-badger, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. The hare, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. The pig, for even though it has divided hoofs and is cloven-footed, it does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean for you. (LAW, from the book of Leviticus, chapter 5, the law given to the people of Israel)

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (PROPHECY, Jeremiah)

‘For God so loved the world that [God] gave [the] only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (GOSPEL, John 3:16)

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (EPISTLE, Paul’s letter to the Romans)

Processing: what clues were you listening for to know what type of Bible book these readings came from? How do you learn those clues? Even though Presbyterians believe that Scripture needs to be read and interpreted collectively, as the church, we also believe that every Christian ought to read the Bible for themselves. Regular individual reading of the Bible is an important part of the Presbyterian way of being a Christian and growing in faith.


The Confession of 1967 On The Bible

  1. Read this passage from the Confession of 1967 aloud and then discuss together the questions below

“The Bible is to be interpreted in the light of its witness to God’s work of reconciliation  in Christ. The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless words of human beings, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and  literary fashions of  the places and times at which they were written. They reflect views of life, history, and the cosmos which were then current. The church, therefore, has an obligation to approach the Scriptures with literary and historical understanding. As God has spoken the divine word in diverse cultural situations, the church is confident that God will continue to speak through  the Scriptures in a changing world and in every form of human culture.”







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