Bibliolatry (from the Greek βιβλίον biblion, "book" and the suffix -λατρία -latria, "worship") is the worship of a book, idolatrous homage to a book, or the deifying of a book. It is a form of idolatry. The sacred texts of some religions disallow icon worship, but over time the texts themselves are treated as sacred the way idols are, and believers may end up effectively worshipping the book. Bibliolatry extends claims of inerrancy–hence perfection–to the texts, precluding theological innovation, evolving development, or progress. Bibliolatry can lead to revivalism, disallows re-probation, and can lead to persecution of unpopular doctrines.
Historically, Christianity has never endorsed worship of the Bible, reserving worship for God. Some Christians believe that biblical authority derives from God as the inspiration of the text, not from the text itself. The term "bibliolatry" does not refer to a recognized belief, but theological discussion may use the word pejoratively to label the perceived practices of opponents. Opponents may apply the term "bibliolatry" to groups such as Protestants of a fundamentalist and evangelical background, such as the King James Only movement, who espouse biblical inerrancy and a sola scriptura approach (scripture as the only divine authority).
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Christianity may use the term bibliolatry to characterize either extreme devotion to the Bible or the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Supporters of biblical inerrancy point to passages (such as 2 Timothy 3:16–17), interpreted to say that the Bible, as received, is a complete source of what must be known about God. Critics of this view call it a form of idolatry, pointing to verses such as John 5:39–40 to indicate that Jesus asked humanity to relate to God directly rather than blindly relying on written rules.
Roman Catholicism and Eastern Christianity
Catholicism traditionally sees scripture and sacred tradition as prima scriptura (rather than sola scriptura, i.e. scripture alone), and has implicitly accused some Protestant sects of bibliolatry. Jaroslav Pelikan wrote about Unitatis redintegratio, "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'". The three independent branches of Eastern Christianity have voiced similar opinions and, with Catholicism and some Protestant opinion, have a higher view of the apostolic succession of bishops than Protestants who derive their faith primarily from the Reformed tradition or hold evangelical or low church views.
Another influence on 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 regard as canonical. Protestants reject these books, despite their regard by the church for over a millennium before the reformers rejected their authority. Protestants tend to rely on the Masoretic Text of contemporary Judaism, which is rooted in the traditions of the Pharisees. Although Catholicism and Eastern Christianity do not fully agree about which books are deuterocanonical and which are not (with the Orthodox Tewahedo preserving the most inclusive set of books, many of which were not preserved elsewhere), the 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 the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint; modern Bible translations in these traditions often take both into consideration. The authority of the Protestant Reformers to reject books from the Christian biblical canon is seen as dubious. 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 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 is.
Sikhism is a religion founded by Guru Nanak. It considers its scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, as the living Guru. Sikhs install it in the sanctum of Sikh temples, and devotees reverentially greet it by bowing and prostrating before it. Since the early 20th century, Farquhar and other scholars consider it as a form of idolatry that believers practice the matha tekna (bowing down and touching one's head to the floor) at the door of a Gurdwara or before the Guru Granth Sahib, and other daily rituals such as putting the scripture to bed (sukhasan) in a bedroom (sachkhand), waking it up every morning, carrying it in a procession and re-opening it (prakash) in major Sikh Gurdwaras. When open in the sanctum of a Sikh Gurdwara, it is within an expensive brocade and attendants fan it as an act of homage.
According to James Moffatt, the ritual veneration given by Sikhs to the Guru Granth Sahib is "true bibliolatry". The widespread devotional worship of the Guru Granth Sahib in these temples has drawn comparisons to the Sikh scripture is being ritually treated like an idol. In this view, idolatry is any form of worship or holy reverence to any object, such as an icon, a ritualized direction, or a house of worship.
Scholars such as Eleanor Nesbitt state the Nanaksar Gurdwaras practice of offering food cooked by Sikh devotees to the Guru Granth Sahib, as well as curtaining the scripture during this ritual, as a form of idolatry. Baba Ishar Singh of the international network of Sikh temples has defended this practice because he states that the Sikh scripture is more than paper and ink.
According to Kristina Myrvold, every Sikh scripture copy is treated like a person and venerated with elaborate ceremonies which are a daily means of "merit bestowing ministrations". These daily ritual ministrations and paying of homage for the scripture by Sikhs, states Myrvold, is not unique to Sikhism. It moulds "meanings, values and ideologies" and creates a framework for congregational worship, states Myrvold, that is found in all major faiths.
- Biblical infallibility
- Biblical literalism
- Cult of personality
- Religious images in Christian theology
- "bibliolatry". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
- Eric Ziolkowski (2017). A Handbook of Biblical Reception in Jewish, European Christian, and Islamic Folklores. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. pp. 5150–. ISBN 978-3-11-038868-8.
- David Norton (2000). A History of the English Bible as Literature. Cambridge University Press. pp. 299–306. ISBN 978-0-521-77807-7.
- William H. Brackney; Craig A. Evans (2007). From Biblical Criticism to Biblical Faith: Essays in Honor of Lee Martin McDonald. Mercer University Press. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-88146-052-0.
Worship of a book is condemned by scriptures cherished by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) pointed out, 'Biblioloatry is a form of idolatry.'
- Kent Eaton (2015). Protestant Missionaries in Spain, 1869–1936. Lexington Books. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-7391-9411-9.
- "12 worst ideas religion has unleashed on the world: Conflict, cruelty and suffering -- not love and peace". Salon. 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2020-09-15.
- Berrow, James Hughes (1862). Bibliolatry.
Alexander, T. Desmond; Brian S Rosner (2020). New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Leicester: Inter-Varsity. ISBN 9781789740400.
Biblical authority is derived from the authority of its divine author and from its content as God's word about Christ. The book is not inherently divine and bibliolatry has never been an acceptable option for Christians.
Thuesen, Peter J. (1999). "The Blood of the Martyr: History, Hagiography, and the consecration of the English Bible". In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles Over Translating the Bible. Religion in America. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 30. ISBN 9780195351941. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
Nearly all American Protestants internalized in some way the Puritan glorification of word over image, although what once was a native command of biblical language often degenerated into a mere bibliolatry. And this bibliolatry, while taking a variety of forms, usually included an implicit (or explicit) anti-Catholicism.
Parent, Mark (1996). "The Irony of Fundamentalism: T. T. Shields and the Person of Christ". In Priestley, David T. (ed.). Memory and Hope: Strands of Canadian Baptist History. Editions SR. 19. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press (published 2006). p. 192. ISBN 9780889206427. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
[...] the charge of 'bibliolatry' with which fundamentalism has been so often accused. [...] bibliolatry [...] has been the charge attached to various Protestants from the Reformation onward. The slogan 'the bible and the bible only is the religion of Protestants' [...] has led many to conclude that certain elements within Protestantism, if not all of it, fell into unhealthy veneration and use of the Scriptures. It is an accusation which has been levelled more recently against the fundamentalists.
- Geisler, Norman L.; Paul D. Feinberg (1980). Introduction to philosophy : a Christian perspective. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. ISBN 978-0-8010-3735-1. p. 307
- "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
- "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."
- Bible Study is Not Enough - Avoiding the ditch of Bibliolatry - Dr. Dan Hayden.
- Jaroslav Pelikan (2006), Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages ISBN 0-670-03385-5.
- Bibliolatry — A Fraudulent Accusation, William Merrell, SBC Life, October 2000.
- James Bissett Pratt (1975). India and Its Faiths: A Traveler's Record. Houghton Mifflin (Orig year: 1915). pp. 250–251.
- Kristina Myrvold (2008). Knut A. Jacobsen (ed.). South Asian Religions on Display: Religious Processions in South Asia and in the Diaspora. Routledge. pp. 144–145, context: 140–154. ISBN 978-1-134-07459-4.
- James Moffatt (1934). "The Sacred Book in Religion". Of Biblical Literature. 53 (1): 3–4. JSTOR 3259335.
- Jacqueline Suthren Hirst; John Zavos (2013). Religious Traditions in Modern South Asia. Routledge. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-1-136-62668-5.
- Darren Todd Duerksen (2015). Ecclesial Identities in a Multi-Faith Context. Wipf. p. 103 footnote 6. ISBN 978-1-63087-885-6.
- Eleanor Nesbitt (2014). Pashaura Singh; Louis E. Fenech (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 362–365. ISBN 978-0-19-969930-8.
- Kristina Myrvold (2017). "Guru Granth: Ceremonial Treatment". Brill's Encyclopedia of Sikhism. Brill Academic. pp. 141–145. ISBN 978-90-04-29745-6.