What is the background of the Bible Lesson subjects?
Twenty-six subjects have formed the basis for Bible Lessons in the Christian Science Quarterly since 1898. These have also comprised the sermons read at Sunday services in Churches of Christ, Scientist, since that time.
In April 1898, Mary Baker Eddy sent 26 subjects to the church’s Bible Lesson committee. Up until then it had been developing Lessons for the Quarterly from the International Series, an interdenominational Bible study publication. Eddy asked the committee to begin preparing lessons on the new subjects.1 The first 13 lessons appeared in the July–September 1898 issue of the Quarterly.
Irving Tomlinson, a member of the committee, recalled in his reminiscence that the subjects and their arrangement “were entirely of Mrs. Eddy’s devising.” He added, “Since first presented, except for slight changes made by Mrs. Eddy, they have not been altered or added to.”2 Those “slight changes” were made to the second 13 subjects before the publication of the October–December 1898 issue of the Quarterly. Two major changes included dropping the subjects “Christian Science Versus Pantheism” and “Did God Create Matter?” This was done in favor of including the subjects “God the Preserver of Man” and “Sacrament.”3 The lesson titled “Thanksgiving” was added to the Quarterly in 1903.
We do not have any records showing why Eddy picked any of the subjects, except that she felt they were divinely directed. According to Tomlinson, around 1901 another member of the committee proposed expanding the number of subjects from 26 to 52. He presented the idea to Eddy and recorded her reply:
The additional list of topics for the Lessons sent me are not needed. The subjects which you already have include every one of those which you gave to me. These topics proposed can all be used under the present list of subjects. Tell the committee these subjects were given of God – they are sufficient and they will remain.4
In 1910 Clifford P. Smith, then First Reader of The Mother Church, suggested replacing “Unreality” and “Is the Universe, Including Man, Evolved by Atomic Force?” with “Prayer,” and “Freedom” or “Liberty.”5 Eddy asked the Christian Science Board of Directors to deliberate on Smith’s proposal and report back.6 They felt a change wasn’t necessary, stating, “we have always known that these subjects were selected by you as the result of demonstration, and for this reason we feel that we should not presume to make any recommendation to you.”7 The subjects were not changed.
For more information on the early development of the Christian Science Quarterly, see this article.
To read how members of the Bible Lesson Committee were selected, see this article.
- Calvin A. Frye to Bible Lesson Committee, 25 April 1898, L07294; Laura Sargent to Bible Lesson Committee, undated, L07294A
- Irving C. Tomlinson, “Mary Baker Eddy: The Woman and the Revelator,” 1932, Reminiscence, 204–205.
- Laura Sargent to Bible Lesson Committee, undated, L07294A.
- Tomlinson, Reminiscence, 205-207.
- Clifford P. Smith to Eddy, 28 February 1910, IC094b.21.083.
- Adam H. Dickey to The Christian Science Board of Directors, 3 March 1910, L12156.
- The Christian Science Board of Directors to Eddy, 16 March 1910, IC002e.03.011.