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For most Quakers, the Bible is considered a trusted source of inspiration but not the final authority of their faith and practice.  There is a wide range of views about scriptures among Friends.  Some Quakers are hesitant to read the Bible at all. Other  wish the Scriptures were more central in all Quaker life.  (See Shawn Lazare below in "Selected Quaker Writing."  There is something called the "Quaker Bible" (see Whitney Lorde in Selected Quaker Writing) but it is not considered definitive and most Quakers are not familiar with it.  Many Quakers are especially drawn to the Gospel of John with its references to the "Light".  (The information on this page does not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of all Friends of Humboldt Friends Meeting.  All resources are taken from Quaker) Sources.).  

Bible and Classic Quaker Writing

"You will say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from the God?"  George Fox

"My desire after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spoke of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not, but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit."  George Fox 1646.


"Walk in the Light". (The George Fox song". Verses 2 and 3.

With a book and a steeple

and a bell and a key

They would bind it for ever –

but they can’t, said he.

O, the book, it will perish,

and the steeple will fall,

But the Light will be shining

at the end of it all.


Verse III

“Will you swear on the Bible?”

"I will not,” said he,

“For the truth is as holy

as the Book to me.”

“If we give you a pistol,

will you fight for the Lord?”

“You can’t kill the devil

with a gun or a sword.”

Select Quaker Videos


The Bible

by John Greenleaf Whittier

We search the world for truth. We cull

The good, the true, the beautiful,

From graven stone and written scroll,

And all old flower-fields of the soul;

And, weary seekers of the best,

We come back laden from our quest,

To find that all the sages said

Is in the Book our mothers read.

Selected Quaker Writing on the Bible

GEORGE FOX: And this I was moved to declare, that the scriptures were given forth by the Spirit of God and all people must first come to the spirit of God in themselves by which they might know God and Christ, of whom the prophets and apostles learnt; and by the same spirit they might know the Holdy Scriptures and the spirit which was in them and gave them forth. Georg Fox. Journal. p. 136Collapsible text is great for longer section titles and descriptions. It gives people access to all the info they need, while keeping your layout clean. Link your text to anything, or set your text box to expand on click. Write your text here...

MICHAEL BIRKEL: If we can read the Bible in a way that opens the door to experiencing God anew, we may find ourselves drawn together in divine lovew. The holy gtround of scrpture -- holy because there we encounter God's presence -- can become common ground. Michael L. Birkel. Engaging Scripture: Reading the Bible with Early Friends p. xx They [early Quakers] did not simply read the scriptures. They lived them. For them, reading the Bible was not just an exercise in information. It was an invitation to transformation xxi

HENRY JOEL CADBURY: At first sight, the Quaker view of the Bible seems to be one of less regard for it than is found in other groups. This is due to various historic influences, but principally because other sources of revelation have been recognized by Friends. The moment any new or unfamiliar source of authority is admitted, the traditional sources seem to be belittled or to be actually attacked. In so far as Quakerism has emphasized the contemporary presence of the Holy Spirit, the immediate guidance of God, or the universality of the saving Light of Christ, all outward and traditional media of religion appear to suffer some eclipse. The historical Christ and the historical revelation, the church and its sacraments and its clergy, and even its sacred book by sheer contrast with the core of Quakerism acquire an appearance of inferiority. At this point our forefathers three centuries ago were merely carrying forward by logical steps what the Reformation had begun but had left unfinished. Perhaps the question that really needs explanation is why Friends did not proceed still further. A Quaker Approach to the Bible. EXCERT Henry Joel Cadberry. 1953. (part of a lecture)

HOWARD R. MACY: Reflections on the path ahead: The Bible will continue to play an important role in Quaker life and practice. The current differences among Friends take their shape from long history and habit, and it seems unlikely that these differences will change markedly in the near future. Virtually all Friends claim to value Scripture’s witness and they encourage active engagement with the Bible as a part of faithful living. Friends have tended to stray from the difficult tension of the paradox of God speaking to us through both Scripture and the Spirit. To hold that point of paradox, Evangelical Friends could steadily encourage the Spirit-led reading of the Bible. Liberal Friends could embrace the Bible’s role more fully as an authoritative guide. All Friends could do more to deepen Bible literacy. Quakers and Scripture. Howard R. Macy. a Chapter of the Oxford Handbook of Quaker Studies.

SHAWN LAZARE: Unfortunately, many (most?) Quakers do not take Scripture as any kind of authority in their lives. In the 19th century, a Quaker preacher named Elias Hicks began teaching that following the “inner light” or “the spirit” took priority over Scripture. He created a traumatic schism within Quakerism. Consequently, following that “light” has led liberal Quakers (called “Hicksites”) to leave Christendom altogether and to embrace a complete religious relativism. Quakers Scripture and Justification by Turning from Sin. Shawn Lazare in Blog. Grace Evangelical Society (GES).

MARK RUSSO: "Barriers to the Bible". I love the Bible. I find it endlessly fascinating, troubling and inspiring. But I didn’t always feel this way. I grew up in a non-religious home, and, although I was familiar with a few Bible stories from school, the Bible was not a book I ever turned to. As a young gay person, I also thought the Bible had some rather negative things to say about people like me. Like many others, I’ve had to overcome a number of barriers before even being able to take a Bible off the shelf. One barrier to the Bible is that there are both Christians and non-Christians who have a very limited and simplistic view of what the Bible is. This view was summed up for me in a poster I saw tacked up in front of a church. Next to a picture of the Bible were the words: "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth". Although the simplicity of this idea may be comforting to some, it is misleading in many, many ways. Written by Mark Russo, 2018. (Page not available)

ROBERT BARCLAY: From the revelations of the Spirit of God to the faithful have come the scriptures of Truth, which contain: (1) a faithful historical account of the behavior of God's people in various ages and of the many unusual and remarkable acts of God which they experienced, (2) a prophetic account of some things already past, and of others yet to come, (3) a full and adequate account of all of the chief principles of the doctrine of Christ which were spoken, or which were written, by the motions of God's Spirit at various times in treasured declarations, exhortations, and maxims which were given to certain churches and their pastors. Nevertheless, because the scriptures are only a declaration of the source, and not the source itself, they are not to be considered the principal foundation of all truth and knowledge. They are not even to be considered as the adequate primary rule of all faith and practice. Yet, because they give a true and faithful testimony of the source itself, they are and may be regarded as a secondary rule that is subordinate to the Spirit, from which they obtain all their excellence and certainty. We truly know them only by the inward testimony of the Spirit or, as the scriptures themselves say, the Spirit is the guide by which the faithful are led into all Truth (John 16:13). Therefore, according to the scriptures, the Spirit is the first and principal leader (Rom 8:14). Because we are receptive to the scriptures, as the product of the Spirit, it is for that very reason that the Spirit is the primary and principal rule of faith. Quoted from Barclay's Apology in Quaker God hath seen meet that herein [in the scriptures] we should, as in a looking glass, see the conditions and experiences of the saints of old; that finding our experience answer to theirs , we might thereby be the more confirmed and comfortedf. . . This is the geat work of the scriptures , and their service to us, that we may witness them fulfilled in us. Robert Barclay Apology, Proposition 3, Section 3

NEW WORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA: Early Quakers rejected the mainstream Protestant idea of "sola scriptura," that the Bible is God's written word and therefore self-authenticating, clear and its own interpreter; instead, they believed that Christ instead of the Bible, is the Word of God. New World Encyclopedia. "Quakers".

BILL SAMUEL: From the early days of the Religious Society of Friends in the 17th century, the Quaker approach towards the Bible has confused many and been controversial. It doesn't neatly fit the usual theological categories. Some charged that Quakers denied the authority of scripture, but Friends vigorously defended against that charge. Friends (Quakers) and the Bible by Bill Samuel. "In my experience, the Bible as a static, one dimensional document ceased to speak to my condition years ago. However, when I came to know it as a window into the ongoing dialogue between God and people struggling to know and to understand God, it began nourishing my faith once more." Jay Marshall, Dean, Earlham School of Religion "...what once looked like immutable cement blocks of words and meaning are more truly shimmering layers that need to pass through the human heart before comprehension can begin." Judith Tyler Dancy, Pastor, Winston-Salem Friends Meeting. The above two quotations quoted in The Bible, An Invitation to Dialogue with God by Bill Samuel. For the Bible to truly speak to us, we must read it not only with our minds but also with our hearts. Jesus rebuked those in his day who took a legalistic view of the Hebrew scriptures but failed to live out the deeper messages about mercy, compassion, forgiveness, etc. He often pointed to those who had not always kept the rules but whose hearts cried out to God as much better examples for us. If we truly open our hearts to God, we find God speaking through the scriptures in ways that we can not even imagine if we read the Bible with a legalistic mind. Bill Samuel.

TACOMA FRIENDS MEETING: Holy Books: Quakers do not regard any book as being the actual ‘word of God’. Most Quakers regard the Bible as a very great inspirational book but they don’t see it as the only one, and so they read other books that can guide their lives. from Introduction to Quakers Tacoma Friends Meeting.

SUSAN JEFFERS: After several years of carrying questions and answers back and forth between the texts, it has begun to dawn on me that Fox was not merely "using" the Bible, quoting from it or alluding to it as a way of explaining or supporting his position. George Fox was actually living the Bible, and apparently succeeding in communicating why and how others might also do so. Unlike the Puritans and most other Christians, who believed they needed the Holy Spirit in order to properly interpret Scripture, Fox and his followers believed that they were themselves continuing the story that Scripture told, becoming apostles and prophets, and so continuing to bring Scripture to fulfillment. Paul and Fox on the Road to Damascus from Peace Church Bible Study Susan Jeffers. published Friends General Conference, Philadelphia 1996

WHITNEY LORDE: They [Quakers]. use a variety of different Bibles as there is no rule about it. However, there is a Quaker Bible. It was translated by Anthony Purver, a self-taught translator. It never gained traction and it was never officially adopted by the Religious Society of Friends and it is largely regarded as unreliable. You can read it online: Part One Part Two Whitney Lorde. in Quora.

GOT QUESTIONS - QUAKERS-FRIENDS Historically, the Quakers have always tried to emphasize the social aspects of the gospel. They were involved in ending slavery and increasing the rights of women and minorities. One of Amnesty International’s founders was a Quaker, and the Quakers have been strong supporters of that organization ever since. Who are the Quakers and what does the Friends Church believe.

FGC WEBSITE: The Bible is a book close to the hearts of many Friends. Many Quakers turn to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures for inspiration, insight, and guidance. They are valued as a source of wisdom that has been sacred to many generations. Quakers are informed by Biblical scholarship that offers perspective on the creation of the Bible and the understanding we have of it today. Most Quakers do not consider the Bible to be the final authority or the only source of sacred wisdom. We read it in the context of other religious writings and sources of wisdom, including the Light Within and worshipful community discernment. Some Quakers have little interest in the Bible.

SWARTHMORE WEBSITE: Friends consider that true religion cannot be learned from books or set prayers, words or rituals, which George Fox called 'empty forms.' When Quakerism began in England, the Bible had only just come into common circulation in English translation and was widely read and quoted. Most Protestant groups attributed a great finality and infallibility to it. The common desire for an external authoritative standard was very strong. In religious controversies, each group tried to find support somewhere in the wording of scripture. At times, Friends fell into the same habit. But they also believed in the contemporary revelation of God's will, parallel to what was described in the Bible. George Fox once said: "You will say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from the God?" Friends refuse to make the Bible the final test of right conduct and true doctrine. Divine revelation is not confined to the past. The same Holy Spirit which has inspired the scriptures in the past can inspire living believers centuries later. Indeed, for the right understanding of the past, the present insight from the same Spirit is essential. Friends believe that, by the Inner Light, God provides everyone with access to spiritual truth for today.

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