Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Christian Theology - Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 7

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 4
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 5
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 6
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 7


How intensive was the inspiration (238)? That's the opening question asked by Dr. Millard Erickson in his systematic theology book, Christian Theology, when discussing the important question of verbal inspiration. Is every word, syllable, and punctuation mark (238) inspired? To answer this question, Erickson helpful looks at how Scripture reads and interprets Scripture. He writes:

When we examine the New Testament writers' use of the Old Testament, an interesting feature appears. We sometimes find indication that they regarded every word, syllable, and punctuation mark as significant. (238)

This is so true that at times an author's entire argument may come down to a fine point in the text. The examples that Erickson gives is Jesus in John 10:35 (If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came [and the Scripture cannot be broken]), who quotes Psalm 82:6 (I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High). Also in Matthew 22:32 (‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”), Jesus quotes from Exodus 3:6 (He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God). Erickson points out here that In verse 44, the point of the argument hangs on a possessive suffix, "The Lord said to my Lord."

Perhaps the most important example, in my opinion, illustrating this is the Apostle Paul in Galatians 3:16 (Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.) who quotes Genesis 13:15 (for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever). Here Paul's defense of the transcendence of sola fida is based on the singularity of one word seed. The gospel here is hanging on the absence of an s.

This leads Erickson to conclude that Since the New Testament writers considered these Old Testament minutiae authoritative (i.e., as what God himself said), they obviously regarded the choice of words and even the form of the words as having been directed by the Holy Spirit. (238)

But the proof of verbal inspiration (or the intensiveness of inspiration as Erickson describes it) goes beyond this. Erickson points out that at times the writers of the New Testament attribute to God which in the Old Testament is not specifically spoken by him. or example Jesus in Matthew 19:4-5 (And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?) who is referencing Genesis 2:24 (For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh). Notice how Jesus essentially puts words in God's mouth when in Genesis, the definition of marriage is taken from the narrator. Thus to Jesus, when Moses defined marriage as man and woman becoming one flesh, it was as if God was saying it.*

One last evidence of Scripture's verbal inspiration. When introducing a quote from the Old Testament, the writers will use language of inspiration and authority. Jesus oftentimes says things like "It is written" (see for example Matthew 4:4, 6, 7, 10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24; 26:31 just to reference one book). This all shows that to the New Testament authors and to Jesus, the Old Testament is verbally inspired even to the smallest detail.

We could extend this to the New Testament as there are examples of New Testament writers quoting other New Testament writers (Erickson does not go here). Paul interestingly quotes both Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 in 1 Timothy 5:18 which begins with the words For the Scripture says. . . We should also consider here how the Early Church treated the New Testament. Even before the final collection of the canon, one can easily see that the early church revealed what we call verbal inspiration regarding the New Testament.

The relevancy of this discussion should not be missed. We ought to model our view of Scripture after that of Christ and His apostles. If every jot and tittle (Matthew 5:18) is inspired then we should view Scripture that way. Every word, every line, every letter (or lack there of as Galatians 3:16 showed), and every word meaning ought to drive our theology and shape our lives. The gospel depends on it.


* Erickson writes here, Evidently, in Jess' mind anything that the Old Testament said was what God said. (239)


For more on Erickson:
Blogizomai - Where to Begin?: Calvin on the Starting Point of Theology - The Knowledge of God & the Knowledge of Man
Blogizomai - Wherefore Art Thou Theological Giants?
Blogizomai - On Special Revelation: Dreams, Visions, Theophanies, and the Word of God
Blogizomai - Where is the Gospel? Charles Hodge & the Insufficiency of Natural Theology 


For more:
Blogizomai - Repost | "Life's Biggest Questions" by Erik Thoennes
Reviews - The Top 5 Essential Works of Theology of the Past 25 Years
Reviews - "Doctrine"
Reviews - "The Good News We Almost Forgot
Reviews - "Dug Down Deep" by Josh Harris
Reviews - "Heresy"
Reviews - "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" by Alister McGrath
Reviews - "The Theology of the Reformers"
Blogizomai - Repost | Schreiner on the Practice of Inaugurated Eschatology
Blogizomai - We Are All Theologians:  The Root of Everything We Are and Do
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology
Blogizomai - The Meaning & Implications of the Resurrection
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology
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