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- Scripture a Unity
Holy Scripture is not simply a collection of religious books: still, less does it consist of mere fragments of Jewish and Christian literature. It belongs to the conception of Scripture that, though originating “by the prophets in many portions and in many ways” (Heb. 1:1), it should yet, in its completeness, constitute a unity, evincing, in the spirit and purpose that bind its parts together, the Divine source from which its revelation comes. The Bible is the record of God’s revelations of Himself to men in successive ages and dispensations (Eph 1:8-10; 3:5-9; Col 1:25-26), till the revelation culminates in the advent and work of the Son, and the mission of the Spirit. It is this aspect of the Bible that constitutes its grand distinction from all collections of sacred writings–the so-called “Bibles” of heathen religions–in the world. These, as the slightest inspection of them shows, have no unity. They are accumulations of heterogeneous materials, presenting, in their collocation, no order, progress, or plan. The reason is, that they embody no historical revelation working out a purpose in consecutive stages from germinal beginnings to perfect close. The Bible, by contrast, is a single book because it embodies such a revelation, and exhibits such a purpose. The unity of the book, made up of so many parts, is the attestation of the reality of the revelation it contains.
- The Purpose of Grace
This feature of spiritual purpose in the Bible is one of the most obvious things about it. It gives to the Bible what is sometimes termed its “organic unity.” The Bible has a beginning, middle and end. The opening chapters of Gen have their counterpart in the “new heaven and new earth” and paradise restored of the closing chapters of Revelation (21; 22). Man’s sin is made the starting point for disclosures of God’s grace. The patriarchal history, with its covenants and promises, is continued in the story of the Exodus and the events that follow, in fulfillment of these promises. Dt recapitulates the lawgiving at Sinai. Josh sees the people put in possession of the promised land. Backsliding, rebellion, failure, do not defeat God’s purpose but are overruled to carry it on to a surer completion. The monarchy is made the occasion of new promises to the house of David (2Sa 7:1-29). The prophets root themselves in the past, but, at the very hour when the nation seems to sink in ruin; hold out bright hopes of a greater future in the extension of God’s kingdom to the Gentiles, under Messiah’s rule. A critical writer, Kautzsch, has justly said: “The abiding value of the Old Testament lies above all in this, that it guarantees to us with absolute certainty the fact and the process of a Divine plan and way of salvation, which found its conclusion and fulfillment in the new covenant, in the person and work of Jesus Christ” (Bleibende Bedeutung des Altes Testament, 22, 24, 28-29, 30-31).
Fulfillment in Christ
How truly all that was imperfect, transitional, temporary, in the Old Testament was brought to realization and completion in the redemption and spiritual kingdom of Christ need not here be dwelt upon. Christ is the prophet, priest, and king of the New Covenant. His perfect sacrifice, “once for all,” supersedes and abolishes the typical sacrifices of the old economy (Heb 9:1-28 through Heb 10:1-39). His gift of the Spirit realizes what the prophets had foretold of God’s law being written in men’s hearts (Jer 31:31-34; 32:39-40; Eze 11:19-20, etc.). His kingdom is established on moveless foundations and can have no end (Php 2:9-11; Heb 12:28; Re 5:13, etc.). In tracing the lines of this redeeming purpose of God, brought to light in Christ, we gain the key which unlocks the inmost meaning of the whole Bible. It is the revelation of a “gospel.”
“Inspiration” is a word around which many debates have gathered. If, however, what has been said is true of the Bible as the record of a progressive revelation, of its contents as the discovery of the will of God for man’s salvation, of the prophetic and apostolic standing of its writers, of the unity of spirit and purpose that pervades it, it will be difficult to deny that a quite peculiar presence, operation, and guidance of the Spirit of God are manifest in its production. The belief in inspiration, it has been seen, is implied in the formation of these books into a sacred canon. The full discussion of the subject belongs to a special article: The Book Writing Process of the New Testament: Authors and Early Christian Scribes
Here it need only be said that the claim for inspiration in the Bible is one made in the fullest measure by the Bible itself. It is not denied by any that Jesus and His apostles regarded the Old Testament Scriptures as in the fullest sense inspired. The appeal of Jesus was always to the Scriptures, and the word of Scripture was final with Him. “Have ye not read?” (Mt 19:4). “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Mt 22:29). This because “God” speaks in them (Mt 19:4). Prophecies and psalms were fulfilled in Him (Lu 18:31; 22:37; 24:27,44). Paul esteemed the Scriptures “the oracles of God” (Ro 3:2). They are “God-inspired” (2Ti 3:16). That New Testament prophets and apostles were not placed on any lower level than those of the Old Testament is manifest from Paul’s explicit words regarding himself and his fellow apostles. Paul never faltered in his claim to be “an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God” (Eph 1:1, etc.)–“separated unto the gospel of God ” (Ro 1:1)–who had received his message, not from man, but by “revelation” from heaven (Ga 1:11,22). The “mystery of Christ” had “now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit,” in consequence of which the church is declared to be “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph 2:20; 3:5).
Marks of Inspiration
It might be shown that these claims made by New Testament writers for the Old Testament and for themselves are borne out by what the Old Testament itself teaches of prophetic inspiration, of wisdom as the gift of God’s spirit, and of the light, holiness, saving virtue and sanctifying power continually ascribed to God’s “law,” “words,” “statutes,” “commandments,” “judgments” (see above). This is the ultimate test of “inspiration”–that to which Paul likewise appeals–its power to “make wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2Ti 3:15)–its profitableness “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness” (2Ti 3:16)–all to the end “that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2Ti 3:17). Nothing is here determined as to “inerrancy” in minor historical, geographical, chronological details, in which some would wrongly put the essence of inspiration; but it seems implied that at least there is no error which can interfere with or nullify the utility of Scripture for the ends specified. Who that brings Scripture to its own tests of inspiration, will deny that judged as a whole, it fulfills them?
- Historical Influence of the Bible
The claim of the Bible to a Divine origin is justified by its historical influence. Regarded even as literature, the Bible has an unexampled place in history. Ten or fifteen manuscripts are thought a goodly number for an ancient classic; the manuscripts of whole or parts of the New Testament are reckoned by thousands, the oldest going back to the 4th or 5th century. Another test is translation. The books of the New Testament had hardly begun to be put together before we find translations being made of them in Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, Egyptian, later into Gothic, and other barbarous tongues (see VERSIONS). In the Middle Ages, before the invention of printing, translations were made into the vernacular of most of the countries of Europe. Today there is not a language in the civilized world, hardly a language among uncivilized tribes, wherever missions have gone, into which this word of God has not been rendered.
Thanks to the labors of Bible Societies, the circulation of the Bible in the different countries of the world in recent years outstrips all previous records. No book has ever been so minutely studied, has had so many books written on it, has founded so vast a literature of hymns, liturgies, devotional writings, sermons, has been so keenly assailed, has evoked such splendid defenses, as the Bible. Its spiritual influence cannot be estimated. To tell all the Bible has been and done for the world would be to rewrite in large part the history of modern civilization. Without it, in heathen lands, the arm and tongue of the missionary would be paralyzed. With it, even in the absence of the missionary, wondrous results are often affected. In national life, the Bible is the source of our highest social and national aspirations. Over 70 years ago, Professor Huxley, though an agnostic, argued for the reading of the Bible in the schools on this very ground. “By the study of what other book,” he asked, “could children be so much humanized, and made to feel that each figure in that vast historical procession fills, like themselves, but a momentary space in the interval between two eternities, and earns the blessings or the curses of all times, according to its effort to do good and to hate evil, even as they are also earning their payment for their work?” (Critiques and Addresses, 61).
by James Orr