The Fragile And Broken Bible

EA posted a few weeks ago about a certain guy, or group of guys, calling the Bible broken and fragile.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In the midst of it all DaveZ told us that the statement was a direct quote from Bonhoeffer. DaveZ was almost correct. I’m being pedantic, because Bonhoeffer said,

…the fragile and broken Bible…

whereas Enns et al said


…broken and fragile…


Thus the quote was not a direct quote of Bonhoeffer, but a good approximation of his words.


That is truly nothing to sweat over.


The true issue before us is that Bonhoeffer spoke of the Bible as fragile and broken. Does that statement support the Ennsian view of the fallibility of Scripture? Does it support the view that Scripture is broken and in error at certain points?


First of all, I must say that I’m not very familiar with Bonhoeffer’s writings and do not know if he stood for or against inerrancy. For the purpose of learning what he said, however, I bought his book, “Reflections On The Bible: Human Word And Word Of God”.


Interestingly enough I found little in that particular book that led me to think the Bonhoeffer was in favor of declaring Scripture in error. I must add the caveat that he may very well have done so in other writings.


In this particular book Bonhoeffer spends much time speaking of Scripture as God’s Word. He seems to have maintained that Scripture was the very voice of God speaking to us.


Another interesting thing is that little is said about the human side of the Scriptures.


That being said, let’s look at Bonhoeffer’s statement about the “fragile and broken Bible”. Does this statement support the view that Scripture is in error? Let’s allow the context to speak for itself.


Bonhoeffer has actually been speaking of the critics of Scripture in this particular section (pg 14-15 in my copy). He said,


After thoroughly reducing the text to rubble, the critics depart from the battlefield, leaving behind debris and shavings, their work apparently done. In terms of its content, the biblical picture is smoothed out to correspond to the spirit of its time, miracle stories are paralleled , and yes, even the person of Jesus himself is stripped not only of his divine but of his human splendor and disappears without any distinguishing marks into the lists of rabbis, sages, and religious enthusiasts.


Bonhoeffer does not seem to truly have much confidence in the work of the critics, does he?


He goes on to say,


…the testimony of Jesus as the Risen One is nothing else than what is presented to us by the Bible. we remain also clear-headed and objective as believers. We must read this book of books with all human methods. But through the fragile and broken Bible, God meets us in the voice of the Risen One.

(Emphasis added.)


Consider this in the light of his opening words in this particular chapter:

The Christian religion stands or falls by its faith in divine revelation in history, a revelation that is real, tangible, visible- to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. The Christian faith thus bears in its innermost core the question of the relation of history and spirit, or, in biblical terms, letter and Spirit, Scripture and revelation, human word and word of God.


Bonhoeffer did without a doubt hold that Scripture is human word and Word of God. That is no surprise. I think that most who hold to inerrancy do the same.


The real question, however, is what did Bonhoeffer mean by calling Scripture “fragile and broken”?


Context presents Bonhoeffer as speaking of the critics demolishing the biblical text and doing little more. The same text that they demolish, this “fragile and broken Bible”, is the one in which God meets us in the voice of Jesus, the Risen One.


Far from declaring that Scripture is fragile and broken, and declaring “get over it”, Bonhoeffer says that men try to destroy Scripture; but this “fragile and broken Bible” remains the Word of God.



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~ Originally posted at Pastoral Musings

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