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Early Quaker Encounters with the Bible

T. Vail Palmer, Jr.

Early Friends' empathetic reading of the Bible demonstrated an innovative and important understanding of the Christian way of life.

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Early Quaker Encounters with the Bible

by: T. Vail Palmer Jr

Through most of our history Friends have taken the Bible seriously and have looked to it for guidance. Friends have been leaders in testifying against war and working for peace, in recognizing the equality of women and men in Christian ministry, in working against slavery and advocating for social justice.

Yet we find in the Bible passages that instruct women to be silent in the churches, that call for the destruction of entire people groups, that suggest poverty is intractable, that require the submission of slaves.

The earliest Friends constantly quoted the Bible—and it is clear that their pioneering positions on matters such as war, women’s ministry, and justice derive from their understanding of the Bible.

How can this be?

The writings of George Fox, Edward Burrough, and Margaret Fell demonstrate that at least these three, first-generation Friends, were reading the Bible with empathy. For them the heart of the Bible lay in its personal narratives. Out of this empathetic reading emerged their innovative understanding of the Christian way of life.

published: 2016, Barclay Press