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of constructing a system of theology or perhaps of ethics. In this synthetic process little or no attention was paid to the fact that the Bible is a collection of books written by different authors, at different times, under different circumstances, for different purposes, and possessing different degrees of spiritual development. Sometimes the text was wrested from its context, and made to bear a meaning which it certainly did not bear in the mind of the original writer, as in the common citation of the verse, “ As a tree falls, so shall it lie,” cited as a proof-text against the possibility of a futare probation; sometimes it was used to support a doctrine the opposite of that intended by the author, as in the not infrequent citation of the text, “ Touch not, taste not, handle not,” as authority for total abstinence, when in the original it is quoted by Paul from ascetic teachers only for the purpose of condemning it, and the philosophy which he supposes it to represent. Occasionally
1 “It may be noted, as an illustration of the way in which the after-thoughts of theology have worked their way into the interpretation of Scripture, that the latter clause has been expounded as meaning that the state in which men chance to be when death comes on them is unalterable, that there is no repentance in the grave.' So far as it expresses the general truth that our efforts to alter the character of others for the better must cease when the man dies, that when the tree falls to south or north, towards the region of light or that of darkness, we, who are still on the earth, cannot prune, or dig about, or dung it (Luke xiii. 8), the inference may be legitimate enough, but it is clear that it is not that thought which was prominent in the mind of the writer.” The Cambridge Bible, Ecclesiastes, p. 206.
2 Col. ii. 21. See Alford's Greek Testament and T. K. Abbott's International Critical Commentary.
this use of texts regardless of their authorship and original intent led to amusing results. Many years ago, when this use of the Bible was more common than it is now, a Judge of the Supreme Court of New York said in a legal decision, "We have the highest possible authority for saying "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.'” The next morning the New York “ Herald” commented on this opinion substantially as follows: “We find that it was the devil who said, “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will be give for his life:' now we know who it is that our Supreme Court Judges regard as the highest possible authority."
But this textual use of the Bible was by no means confined to misuses such as these. One has only to turn to any theological sermon of one of the older New England divines, such as Jonathan Edwards or Nathaniel Emmons, or to the collection of texts accumulated in footnotes in support of the articles of the Westminster Confession of Faith, or in such a Roman Catholic collection as Divine Armory of Holy Scripture," to see that in this older method of Bible use no attempt was made to consider the comparative weight, the local meaning, or the original application of Scripture texts; all were treated as of equal value, and applied regardless of their literary significance and human authorship.
1 Thus the Divine Armory cites as authority for “the noble lineage, immaculate conception, and virginity” of the Virgin
And such use of Scripture was measurably justified by the conception which the fathers more or less consciously entertained concerning the Bible as one book, whose real author was God, though it was written by many human amanuenses. In studying the statutes of a State we do not inquire who reported them, nor even what legislator proposed their enactment; for the authority of the statute is in the legislature, not in the reporter nor in the individual legislator. In studying the decisions of a court, all we care to know about the reporter is that he has given a fairly correct report of the decision; even the personality of the individual judge who wrote the opinion is a matter of wholly secondary significance ; for the authority rests in the court whose decision is announced, not in the judge who announces it nor in the reporter who records it. Somewhat similarly, the character and circumstances of the individual writer in the Bible were not improperly ignored by those who held that he was only an amanuensis or reporter, or at least quasi private secretary, who recorded, though to a certain extent in his own language, the authoritative and inerrant, if not absolutely verbally dictated, utterances of an omniscient God. even sometimes affirmed that we can only think in Mary, the verse from the Song of Songs : “ Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is no spot in thee;" and the Westminster Confession of Faith cites in support of the doctrine that the hopes of the unregenerate are illusory and vain the argument of Bildad that Job must have been a great sinner or his prosperity would not have come to naught (Job viii. 13, 14).
language, and therefore, if the thoughts of the writers were inspired, the words must have been dictated. Those who entertained this conception of the Bible paid little or no attention to the specific character of the different writers or the different writings. No account, for example, was made of the fact that the Book of Job is largely a hot debate between disputants who take absolutely antagonistic views of the same problem ; their utterances were quoted as of equal authority. A quotation from an old poem affirming that the sun and moon stood still to prolong the victory of Joshua and make more overwhelming the defeat of his enemies was regarded as scientifically author
1“ Calovius was the author of the theory which is usually denominated the Orthodox Protestant theory. According to him, inspiration is the form which revelation assumes, and nothing exists in the Scriptures which was not divinely suggested and inspired (divinitus suggestum et inspiratum). Quenstedt, Baier, Hollaz, and others followed, affirming that the writers were dependent upon the Spirit for their very words, and denying that there were any solecisms in the New Testament. The Buxtorfs extended inspiration to the vowel-points of the Old Testament. This view was adopted in the Formula Cons. Helv., and Gisbert Voëtius extended inspiration to the very punctuation. This doctrine was an absolute novelty.” Religious Encyclopedia, SchaffHerzog, article Inspiration. Compare also article on Inspiration in Encyclopædia Britannica. These extreme views were not, however, those of the most eminent of either the Roman Catholic or the Protestant divines; the Westminster Confession of Faith implies a spiritual rather than a literalistic doctrine of inspiration in its declaration (chapter i., $ 5), our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts."
itative, to be reconciled if possible with the postulates of modern science, but, whether reconciled or not, to be accepted. Such inconsistencies in the historical narratives as the statement in one account of the Deluge that the animals went by twos into the ark, and in another that some of them went by sevens,2 or in the Book of Samuel that Jehovah moved David to number Israel, and in the Book of Chronicles that Satan tempted him,3 it was thought necessary to harmonize on the theory that both statements proceeded from one infallible author and were recorded by infallible penmen. Inter
1«The Book of Jasher' was in all probability a collection, rhythmical in form and poetical in diction, of various pieces celebrating the heroes of the Hebrew nation and their achievements." The Cambridge Bible, Josh. x. 13. Compare The Bible Commentary on the same. Compare also the Polychrome Bible, Book of Joshua, p. 72. Of this passage (Josh. x. 12, 13) it says: "The quotation is poetic and figurative, as in the Song of Deborah (Judg. v. 20), the stars fought against Sisera; it seems, however, to have been misunderstood and taken literally by subsequent editors. It means simply: May God grant us victory before the sun sets. Similarly Agamemnon prays to Zeus that the sun may not set before Priam's dwelling is overthrown (Il. 2, 413 ff.). At the bidding of Athene the sunset was delayed for the sake of Ulysses (Od. 23, 241 ff.), and, on another occasion, hastened at the command of Hera, in order to save the Greeks (Il. 18, 239 ff.). Of course, if there were an adequate motive for a miracle here, or any appreciable evidence that a miracle took place, scientific objections would be irrelevant, because, from the very idea of a miracle, its physical antecedents and mechanism are unintelligible and cannot be discussed. But there is no reason to suppose that the narrative originally stated that a miracle happened.”
Compare Gen. vi. 20, and vii. 9, with Gen. vii. 2, 3. 8 2 Sam. xxiv. 1; 1 Chron. xxi. 1.