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Bibliolatry (from the Greek βιβλίον biblion, "book" and the suffix -λατρία -latria, "worship")[1][2] is the worship of a particular book or the description of a deity found within a particular book.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

In Christianity, the term bibliolatry is used to describe someone who has an extreme devotion to the Bible itself, or holds to a high view of biblical inerrancy.[3] Those who esteem Biblical inerrancy point to passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17, stating that the Scriptures, as received, are a perfect (and in some views, complete) source of what must be known about God. Critics of this view call it a form of idolatry and point to verses such as John 5:39-40 to point out that Jesus was asking humanity to relate to God directly, not just seek God's rules and spurn a relationship with the God who created them.[4]

Historic Christianity has never endorsed worship of the Bible itself, as worship is explicitly reserved only for God. Some Christians believe that biblical authority is derived from God as the inspiration behind the text, not the text itself.[5] The term is not a reference to an actual belief, but is often used as a pejorative term to negatively label perceived practices of theological opponents. The groups to whom the term is most often applied are Protestants of a fundamentalist and evangelical background who hold to Biblical inerrancy and sola scriptura (Scripture as the only divine authority).

Disputes exist as to whether the King James Only movement is or is not a form of bibliolatry.

Roman Catholicism and Eastern Christianity[edit]

Catholicism traditionally looks to Scripture and sacred tradition together as authoritative (prima scriptura), rather than scripture alone, and thus has often implicitly accused some Protestant sects of bibliolatry. Jaroslav Pelikan writes of Unitatis Redintegratio 21, "the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church of 1962–1965 could speak with a mixture of genuine admiration and ever-so-gentle reproof about a 'love and reverence, almost a cult, for Holy Scripture' among the 'separated Protestant brethren'."[6] The three independent branches of Eastern Christianity have stated similar opinions, and alongside Catholicism and even some Protestant opinion (see Porvoo Communion and Called to Common Mission), hold a much higher view of the apostolic succession of bishops than Protestants who derive their faith primarily from the Reformed tradition or otherwise hold evangelical or low church views.

Another divide that tends to color perceptions of bibliolatry is the fact that nearly all of those who hold high views of the Bible's authority against tradition also tend to reject the Biblical authority of the deuterocanonical books found in the Septuagint that Catholicism and Eastern Christianity grant the full authority of scripture. Protestants reject these books in spite the fact that those books were held in the highest regard by the entire Church for over a millennium before the reformers rejected their authority. Protestants instead tend to rely on the Masoretic Text of contemporary Judaism, which is rooted in the traditions of the ancient Pharisees. Though Catholicism and the different branches of Eastern Christianity are not fully in agreement as to which books are deuterocanonical and which are not (with the Orthodox Tewahedo church preserving the most inclusive set of books, many of which were not preserved elsewhere), the ancient regard for the Septuagint held by the early church fathers is regarded as sound. Most Catholics and Eastern Christians agree with high church Protestants that the Old Testament is best understood by studying both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint together and modern Bible translations in these traditions often take both into consideration. The authority of the Protestant Reformers to eject books from the Christian Biblical canon is still seen as highly dubious. Alternatively, those who view the Vulgate in Roman Catholicism, the Septuagint in Eastern Orthodoxy, the Peshitta in Syriac Christianity, or the Ge'ez Bible of the Orthodox Tewahedo as being more authoritative than the Hebrew Old Testament or the Greek New Testament could be accused of bibliolatry for many of the same reasons that the King James Only movement often is. There are a few serious scholars who believe that parts of the Greek New Testament may be translations of the same parts in the Peshitta, but this is a minority view.[citation needed]

Southern Baptists[edit]

Southern Baptists have in recent years been accused of practicing bibliolatry by numerous[quantify] and well-respected evangelical leaders[which?] due to a wording change in the 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message and the corollary purging of the ranks that removed any professors who believed that historical or archaeological findings might legitimately raise questions about a passage. During the late 1990s, hundreds of Southern Baptist seminarians and denominational officials were systematically removed from office for either claiming that cultural and archaeological findings could give a better understanding of the context of the Scriptures or (after the 2000 revision) for refusing to agree to the significant revision in the Baptist doctrine.[citation needed] Southern Baptist William Merrell's response to the charge of bibliolatry in 2000[7] exemplifies the vitriol this debate has produced.

In Islam[edit]

See also: Quranism

Though most often used in a Christian context, the charge of bibliolatry in this sense is also sometimes leveled against Islamic fundamentalists and other religionist deemed excessively devoted to their holy texts.[8]

In Sikhism[edit]

In Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib is not simply the holy text; the text itself was proclaimed as the final Guru by the last human Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. The grammar and syntax within the book cannot be altered, and the text has a key, central role within Sikh worship.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "bibliolatry". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ "-latry". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  3. ^ Geisler, Norman L.; Paul D. Feinberg (1980). Introduction to philosophy : a Christian perspective. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House. ISBN 978-0-8010-3735-1.  p. 307
  4. ^ Bible Study is Not Enough - Avoiding the ditch of Bibliolatry - Dr. Dan Hayden.
  5. ^ Alexander, T. Desmond; Brian S Rosner (2000). New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Leicester: Inter-Varsity. ISBN 0-8308-1438-8.  "Unity and Diversity in the History of Interpretation"
  6. ^ Jaroslav Pelikan (2006), Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages ISBN 0-670-03385-5.
  7. ^ Bibliolatry — A Fraudulent Accusation, William Merrell, SBC Life, October 2000.
  8. ^ The Unseen Face of Islam, Bill A. Musk, p.192, Kregel Publications, Missions to Muslims, 1989, ISBN 0-8254-6054-9