This page provides a range of key resources on Scripture and ethics. Many, but not all, of these are available online (some though requiring a subscription to be accessed).
Although some of these give attention to the ethical content of Scripture, the focus here is on the methodological and hermeneutical issues ie the challenges in appealing to Scripture for current ethical thinking (particularly given its cultural and historical distance) and how these can be addressed.
The initial section points to some helpful introductory pieces in dictionaries, handbooks and readers and is followed by discussion in some of the main general ethics textbooks.
There follows a selection of resources particularly focussed on general methodological questions from biblical scholars and more detailed discussions from contemporary theologians, ethicists and biblical scholars.Last Updated on 10 March, 2021 by Andrew Goddard
Dictionary Articles & Readers
- “OT Ethics” in IVP Dictionary, Chpt 8, pp. 48-55 & SCM Dictionary, pp. 433-7.
- “NT Ethics” in IVP Dictionary, Chpt 9, pp. 56-64 & SCM Dictionary, pp. 421-4.
- “Bible in Christian Ethics”, SCM Dictionary, pp. 57-61.
- “Biblical Ethics” by Verhey in Boulton, Wayne G., et.al., From Christ to the World, pp. 17-20.
- Articles in Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics
- “Ethics in Scripture” by Allen Verhey,
- “Scripture in Ethics: A History” by Charles Cosgrove and
- “Scripture in Ethics: Methodological Issues” by Birch.
- William C. Spohn, ‘Scripture’ in Meilaender & Werpehowski, Oxford Handbook of Theological Ethics, pp 93-109.
- Jim Fodor, ‘Reading the Scriptures: Rehearsing Identity: Practicing Character’, in Stanley Hauerwas & Samuel Wells (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, Chpt 11 in 2004 edition, Chpt 12 in 2011 edition.
Most of the standard ethics textbooks have a section dealing with this question including the following:
- “The Bible in Christian Ethics” in Neil Messer, SCM Study Guide to Christian Ethics, pp. 15-39 provides a basic introduction related to issues of divorce and stem cells.
- Craig Hovey, Exploring Christian Ethics, Chpt 1 and Part One more generally.
- Samuel Wells & Ben Quash, Introducing Christian Ethics, chpt 1, pp. 5-33 (the extracts in Christian Ethics: An Introductory Reader chpt 1 are also of interest)
- Stanley Grenz, The Moral Quest, pp. 240-57 (also chapter on “Ethics in the Bible” (pp. 95-128))
- Alan Verhey, Remembering Jesus, pp. 49-76 (“’Useful…for Training in Righteousness’: Scripture, Churches, and the Moral Life”)
- Glen H. Stassen & David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, pp. 81-98 (“Authority and Scripture).
- David Attwood, Changing Values, pp. 154-69, “The Bible and Christian Ethics”.
- Stephen Long, Christian Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, ch 2 (esp pp. 23-50)
- Kyle D. Fedler, Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality, pp 51-66 (“The Use of Scripture and Other Sources”).
- John Rogerson, Allen Verhey and Stephen Barton on OT, Gospels, and Epistles respectively in Robin Gill, Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics, Chpts 3-5.
Old and New Testaments
The following texts are by biblical scholars who have written on OT ethics and NT ethics.
- Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, is for me the best volume on the NT, see especially pp. 1-11, 207-13, 291-310 for his method.
- It has generated quite a lot of responses including pieces by Moo and Gundry-Volf to which Hays replied. Wenthe wrote a review article from a Lutheran perspective and Trevin Wax blogged through it from a conservative Reformed perspective. Other important reviews of it are by Meilaender and, from a Roman Catholic perspective, Spohn. Hays gives a bit of background to the book (and his other work) in this online interview.
- Richard A. Burridge, Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics, especially chpts. I, II & VIII offers a different approach to the NT and is in places critical of Hays.
- There are responses to it from Francis Watson, Ian Markham and Richard Hays to which Burridge replies in the Scottish Journal of Theology Volume 63, Issue 3 (August 2010)
- Christopher Wright, OT Ethics for the People of God is for me the best volume on the OT. Part 1 (pp. 23-99) explores in more detail his methodology which is summarised in his, Walking in the Ways of the Lord: The Ethical Authority of the Old Testament, pp13-45 (“The use of the Bible in Social Ethics”). Part 3 of OT Ethics (pp. 387-471) gives an excellent overview of both historical and contemporary debates on OT ethics.
- John Barton, Ethics and the Old Testament, especially pp.1-18 offers a good introduction from a more liberal OT perspective. In more detail see his Understanding OT Ethics, Part One, especially Chpts 3 and 4.
Other Contemporary Discussions
- Charles H. Cosgrove, Appealing to Scripture in Moral Debate: Five Hermeneutical Rules. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.
- Kaiser, Doriani, Vanhoozer & Webb, Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible To Theology (Zondervan, 2009) presents four different approaches which can be related to appealing to Scripture in Christian ethics. A short introductory video setting out the book is on YouTube and a review by D.A. Carson offers a critical summary of the views.
- Wesley Vander Lugt, Living Theodrama: Reimagining Theological Ethics (Ashgate, 2014) is a detailed elaboration of a dramatic/performance model. The thesis behind the book is online here and I have reviewed the book here giving a sense of its main argument.
- Howard Marshall, in Wright, David F. Essays in Evangelical Social Ethics, pp. 39-55 (“Using the Bible in Ethics”) [an approach based on biblical ethical principles]
- Brian Brock, What Role Ought the Bible to Play in Christian Ethics?:‘Developing a Hermeneutic’ vs. ‘Immersion in Tradition’ Ethics in Brief, Vol 12 No 2. For more from Brock see his Singing the Ethos of God: On the place of Christian Ethics in Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.
- Lucas Chan, “Notes on Moral Theology: Biblical Ethics: 3D” in Theological Studies (2015), pp. 112–128 offers a helpful survey of writings in the last few decades on biblical (especially NT) ethics from both biblical scholars and ethicists.
- Oliver O’Donovan “Scripture and Christian Ethics”, Anvil, 24.1, pp 21-9.
- Oliver O’Donovan, “The Moral Authority of Scripture,” in Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible: How the New Testament Shapes Christian Dogmatics, ed. Markus Bockmuehl and Alan J. Torrance, pp. 165-76.
- Stanley Hauerwas, “The Moral Authority of Scripture” in Boulton, Wayne G., et.al., From Christ to the World, pp. 33-50.
- Stanley Hauerwas. ‘The Interpretation of Scripture: Why Discipleship is Required’, in John Berkman & Michael Cratwright (eds.), The Hauerwas Reader, pp. 255-266.
- Stephen Fowl, “New Testament, Theology & Ethics” in Green, Joel B., Hearing the New Testament, pp. 394-409.
- Stephen E. Fowl & Gregory E. Jones, Reading in Communion: Scripture and Ethics in Christian Life, esp. chpts. 1-3.
- James Gustafson, “The Place of Scripture in Christian Ethics: A Methodological Study”. An older discussion from a leading Protestant ethicist published in Interpretation in 1970.
- Andrew Goddard, “The Place of the Bible in Medical Ethics” in A Glass Darkly: Medicine and Theology in Further Dialogue, edited by D. G. Jones and R. J. Elford. 2010. Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 133-56.