The Scriptures of Truth (Part 2)
E W Rogers, Oxford
THE Bible is in many respects unlike all other books. Men who write books are supposed to understand what they write, but the " Spirit of Christ " who was in the old-time prophets caused them to write things which, afterwards, they themselves had to search and inquire into, in order to ascertain their meaning and to what times and what parties they related. How odd, it may seem, that this was the case. But they were tools in the Spirit's hand and wrote beyond their time and understanding.
Consequently, as Peter later stated (2 Peter 1. 20, 21), no prophecy of Scripture can be interpreted isolated from the bulk of all other Scripture. In the beginning it did not owe its origin to a prophet determining to write a book. " It did not become of its or anyone's own unfolding." Rather, men from God, were borne along by the Holy Spirit, as ships are home along under the force of the wind at sea, and that which they spoke or wrote was the very Word of God.
We rightly expect a man now-a-days to explain his own writings. But as to the Old Testament scriptures, no writer could claim an exclusive monopoly in the interpretation thereof, if for no other reason than that he was not the author. It is the author who explains and to whom we may appeal for an explanation. Seeing that the Holy Spirit is the Author of all Scripture, it follows that it is by His power alone that we may interpret them. John puts this thus : "Ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye know all things " (1 John 2. 20).
The Scriptures arc reliable in their promises : true as to their statement of facts : authoritative as to their origin : and inevitable as to their foresh ado wings. They lie open to the understanding of the believer: and are so complete that we are forbidden three times either to add to them or to take from them (Deut. 12. 32 ; Prov. 30. 6 ; and Rev. 22. 18, 19).
The Bible is a homogeneous whole. It is impossible at any time to secure absolute agreement between scientific men on one particular subject, and this becomes more marked if we listen to professional men who lived in different times and in different countries. Rut the Bible touches all kinds of subjects : and was written by men who lived at different times, were of different occupations, resided in different countries, and yet one and all agree each with the other without the slightest possibility of collusion or collaboration.
The subject of fulfilled prophecy is a vast one but the fact that the New Testament in so many details records the historical fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy shows the unity of Scripture and demonstrates that One Master Mind was behind each of the various writers. Shepherd, Farm Labourer, Doctor, Publican, Rabbi, Fisherman, and others, all had their share in the production, yet had no communication one with the other. Notwithstanding, the production was, in every part, in agreement with the other. The very existence of the Bible is proof of its divine origin, for no one person or no persons together could produce such a book. Its survival, despite all the attempts to destroy it, shows it to be of God. For if this work be of God ye cannot destroy it. Its effects upon the lives of individuals and the character of peoples, clearly mark it out as being supernatural. By it inquisitors have been made Apostles: the vicious have been made gracious : the wild have been tamed and the corrupt have been cleansed.
It will bear microscopic investigation as well as a panoramic survey. Its very tenses are inspired, as witness John 8. 58. Correct grammar would have demanded the words " Before Abraham was I was," but correct doctrine demands the alteration of the tense to the present 1 AM. The number in which a particular word is found is important, as witness Gal. 3. 16: not ' seeds' as of many, but ' seed ' as relating to one. There were other words available to the Spirit of God such as ' sons' or ' generation,' but God selected ' seed ' because it can bear both a singular and plural sense : it is, indeed, a multitude-singular. Again the doctrine of the Trinity is to be found, veiled it is agreed, in the use of a plural noun with a singular verb in Gen. 1.1: " God (plural) created (singular)."
The omission of certain facts is not by accident but by design, as witness the teaching elicited by the writer to the Hebrews touching Melchizedek in Hebrews 7. The " silences of Scripture are like the pauses in music : they add to its harmony." We dare not fill them in without running the risk of spoiling the handiwork of God.
Old Testament quotations are used in the New Testament to a new purpose. There arc no misquotations. An author has the right to quote from his first work in a later work to a different purpose, and as he will. All such differences are most instructive' though space does not permit of our examining any. But reference may be made to the LXX of Gen. 5. 22 where, instead of " walked with God " we read " pleased God." The one is cause and the other effect. Also in Heb. 10 where " a body hast thou prepared me " is substituted for " mine ears hast thou digged " (Heb. 10. 5 and Psalm 40. 6-8). Here we have the LXX's paraphrase approved by the Spirit and used in a later writing. Likewise, the omission of the later part of Psalm 24. 1, because that later part relates to millennial times but the former—quoted by Paul in 1 Cor. 10. 26—is as true today as when Paul wrote. Also in Romans 10. 15 the pronoun " him " of Isa. 5. 2-7 is altered by Paul to " them " to accord with the present missionary charter of the Scriptures. And so we might go on.
The Bible is the Word of God. But not all in the Scriptures is, in the first instance, a statement made by God. Sometimes Satan is the speaker : sometimes man in his perversity, such as Balaam ; sometimes it is an ass that speaks. But the record of all this is God's word to us. It is not correct to say that the Bible contains the word of God. In all its parts it is the Word of God. But it contains also the utterances of men, which utterances in many instances do not represent what is true. The record is true: but the statements may be far from the truth, and in this way God shows the blindness and wickedness of men and others, whilst He demonstrates His own faithfulness.
Much has been made of alleged errors in the Scrip-tee, but did we possess all the data we should see that no such errors occur. Because one Gospel says there was one blind man and another Gospel says there were two, it does not follow there is a mistake. Certainly if there were two, there was one! Copyists' errors are few and not of such a character or number as to affect any doctrine of our faith. Numerical inconsistencies there may appear to be, but do we know all there is to be known of ancient numerology ?
The critics have done their utmost to smash the validity of the Scriptures, but their critical hammers have been broken on the anvil of the Word of God. The impregnable rock of Holy Scripture still stands, despite all the raging of the furious tempests of hostile higher and lower criticism. The simplest may read the Bible and derive food for the soul, comfort for the heart, and rest for the dying pillow. Likewise he who has soared high into the realms of the greater sciences may find the Scriptures to be his comfort in sorrow and peace in stormy days, provided he is willing to " become a fool that he may be wise."
What other book can claim to have had so many minds engrossed with it over so many centuries and with such close investigation as the Bible ? It is surely the best book of all.
The devoted labours of its translators would form a separate volume. Many have laid down their lives in so doing, while before making the supreme sacrifice they have had to flee hither and thither for safety. In their work they deemed accuracy in detail essential. We must, in our times, beware lest we become content with inadequate paraphrases with the consequent forfeiture of accuracy, in order to accommodate our thinking to modern development. God providentially caused His words to be written in what have for long been dead languages, so that their meaning has not been subject to the fluctuations of living languages. We can ascertain with precision what He intended by His carefully chosen words. That meaning remains unaltered.
Like the works of creation Holy Scripture is infinite. Psalm 19 speaks of both. But things are attributed to the written Word of God that could not be said of the tangible creation around us. The Bible is far more precious than the finest gold : let us value it. It is far, far sweeter than the choicest honey. Let us then enjoy it.