THE Bible is a living unity, an organic whole, it whose limits can never be disturbed by addition, alteration or withdrawal. It is a complete, a final, and an exhaustive revelation of the will of God to men.
The preservation of the correct Text and the transmission of the exact content of the Bible are not the work of mere human tradition. They are the outcome of the ever-watchful activity of Divine providence. The Church is not the creator but the custodian of the Canon, or list of books which constitute the Word of God.
The word "Canon" means a rod, a rule, a standard, an authority. As applied to the books of the Old and New Testament, it indicates that these writings and these alone constitute an exhaustive and an authoritative expression of the mind of God, an objective standard or rule of faith, and a final court of appeal, valid for all time in all matters pertaining to life and salvation. The word "Canon," as applied to the books of the Bible, indicates that these books are to be clearly distinguished and definitely marked off from all other literature as being of Divine origin and possessing Divine authority. They embody a divinely given standard, or rule of faith and practice, for all generations and for all mankind.
The Old Testament is a Divine revelation made by duly authorised and amply accredited messengers, chosen by God Himself and adequately furnished for this purpose. It was written down between the age of Moses and the age of Ezra and Malachi, a period of a, little over a thousand years. The authority of the various books of the Old Testament was not gradually acquired by them, but belonged to them from the very first. The written words of Moses and the prophets, like their spoken words, were immediately recognised as of Divine authority. They were not regarded as of Divine authority because they were found in the Canon, but they were placed in the Canon because they were immediately perceived by inspired men of God to be of Divine origin and authority. Their admission to the Canon was not due to their antiquity or to the fact that they were written in the sacred Hebrew language, but to the recognition of the truthfulness of their claim to be a direct and an authoritative revelation of the divinely communicated will of God. Their Divine authority was imparted with and inherent in the words themselves, not subsequently added to them by a process of canonisation.
Moses and the prophets were invested with Divine authority. They were the messengers of Jehovah and they spoke in His name, so that the words they uttered were not of their own origination. That is the meaning of the words :" No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation " (2 Peter 1: 20). The prophecy is not of human origination.. It is the Word of the the Lord. It is "the law of God." The Word of the Lord was of the same binding authority,whether written or spoken. It was sacred and inviolable from the very first. Hence each book in the Bible has its own independent authority, which it derives directly from God, and not from the Church or council which, pronounces judgment on its claim to be an expression of His mind and will.
The exact definition of the true content of the Canon of the Old Testament was guaranteed by living prophets until the age of Ezra ; and Malachi, when the spirit of prophecy was withdrawn, the age of inspiration ceased, and the Canon of the Old Testament was closed. Proverbs 30:6, and Deuteronomy 4:2 and 10:32 define the character and fix the limits of the Canon of the Old Testament, as Revelation 22: 18,19 fixes the limit and closes the Canon of the New.
" Add thou not unto His words lest He reprove thee and thou be found a liar." Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it." "What thing soever I command you, observe and do it : thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." " If any man shall add unto these things God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city and from the things which are written in this Book."
Uninterrupted testimony ascribes the completion of the Canon of the Old Testament to Ezra and the Great Synagogue, and from the age of Ezra to the present day, through the Targums, the Sopherim, the Talmud, the Mishna, the Gemara, the Massoretes, the Manuscripts, the printed Hebrew Bibles and the activities of the Christian Church, it has been guarded and preserved amid all the vicissitudes of time by the ever-watchful eye and the all-protecting hand of God.
The authority of the Old Testament is guaranteed by the writers of the New Testament. Every book in the Old Testament is either quoted or alluded to in the New Testament. The Bible as we hold it in our , hands today is identical with the Bible as it was held in the hands of our Lord and His Apostles. They regarded the Old Testament as of Divine origin, as given by Divine inspiration, as invested with Divine authority.
In like manner the books of the New Testament are given by the inspiration of God through the Apostles, who were chosen by our Lord for this very purpose, that they might be with Him, and receive His Spirit, and be instructed by the Holy Ghost, and then go forth and bear witness, by Spirit-taught word and inspired pen, of the " things which they had seen and heard."
The authentication of the Word of God is it the work of the ever-living Spirit of God. The truth of the Word is for ever guaranteed by -the immediate testimony of the Spirit of God.
The authentication of the Canon, or list of hooks contained in the Old and New Testament, must be supplemented by the authentication of the Text of these books. This is the task of Biblical Criticism, a work demanding not only some degree of learning and scholarship, but also some measure of acquaintance with the mind of the Spirit.
Biblical Criticism is divided into three branches: (1) Textual or Lower Criticism ;.(2) Documentary or Higher Criticism ; (3) Speculative or Historical Criticism. Of these the first alone has anything of value to offer to the Bible student, for both Higher Criticism and Historical Criticism deal with speculative problems which can never be answered. Both alike proceed from naturalistic premises ; both alike tend to throw doubt upon the Divine origin, inspiration, and authority of the Bible, and the historical character of the events which it records; and both alike lead to results which are incompatible with the direct testimony of Scripture concerning itself.
Textual Criticism is occupied with the determination of the Text of Scripture. It deals with the reproduction of the true and genuine original Text of the books of the Old and New Testament, and the elimination of the errors which have crept into certain manuscripts through the carelessness of copyists and other causes. The work of the textual critics has been worth doing and well done. The material at their disposal is singularly abundant, especially in the number of authoritative copies of the Text of the New Testament. The original autographs have all perished, but their exact content has been accurately preserved to us by an immense array of witnesses, compared with which the authorities for the text of classical works is insignificant. We have two hundred and fifty manuscripts of Horace, and similarly numerous copies of Virgil, but only one manuscript of so important a work as Tacitus' "Annals." For Caesar, Herodotus, and Thucydides, we have only late copies of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries A.D. The manuscripts of the New Testament, on the other hand, date from as early as from the fourth to the ninth century, and of these we have no fewer than three thousand copies in existence today.
Textual Criticism is a judicial process directed, to the determination of the precise words used by the original writer. There are two schools of Textual Criticism, the traditional and- the critical. The net result of their labours has been to establish beyond all question the entire accuracy of the Text of the New Testament, which lies at the basis of our English translations. The Revised Version embodies the Text adopted by members of the critical school -Westcott and Hort, Sanday and other scholars. The Authorised Version embodies the Text favoured by members of the traditional school-Burgon, Scrivener, Miller and others. Both schools contain men of equal learning and equal scholarship ; but all the members of both schools are so far agreed as to the entire genuineness of the Text translated, that not one single doctrine, and not more than six or seven important passages, are affected by the differences between them. In the Revised Version, doubt is cast upon the sufficiency of the ancient manuscript authority for (1) the last twelve verses of Mark (Mark 16: 9-20); (2) the word from the Cross, " Father forgive them ; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23: 34) ; (3) the record of the strengthening angel and the bloody sweat (Luke 22: 43, 44) ; (4) the form of the angelic hymn, " Peace on earth, good will toward men" (A.V.), instead of "Peace on earth to men of good will" (R.V.) (Luke 2: 14) ; (5) the Doxology in the Lord's prayer (Matt.6: 13) ; (6) the words descriptive of the Son of Man, "which is in heaven " (John 3: 13) ; and - (7) the words "God was manifest in the flesh" (A.V.) (1 Tim.3:16). Anyone who will read the Appendix in Miller's " Guide to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament " will see how strong is the evidence for, and how gratuitous is the doubt cast upon, the genuineness and the sufficiency of the original manuscript authority for these passages.
The Higher Criticism deals with the more difficult problems of the authorship and date of the various books of the Bible, their simple or composite character, and their literary form. It is concerned with questions relating to the origin and structure of the documents containing the Text as it has been handed down to us. Here again differences of method determine the point of view, and divide Biblical scholars into two camps, each containing men of great eminence, equally learned, equally honest, equally well equipped and equally "modern." The critical school challenges the predictive element in prophecy, and assigns a purely human origin and an obsolescent authority to the whole Bible. Its conclusions are declared to be the "assured results " of an honest, candid, scholarly examination of the literary phenomena presented in Biblical literature, but they are really due to naturalistic presuppositions which determine the method and fix the reader's point of view. 'The conclusions of the critical school are incompatible with the truth of the testimony of the Spirit of God contained in Holy Scripture itself.
Historical Criticism is a further development of the principles of the Higher Criticism. It denies the historical character of the authentic records of the Old Testament, and deals with testimony of the Spirit through the reading of the Word. We affirm, with no less honesty and candour, with no less reason and understanding of the points at issue, and with no less devotion to the supremacy of the claims of truth than those who hold the contrary opinion, that Adam and Noah, Joseph and Jonah, David and Daniel, are not myths but men, and that an unprejudiced, scholarly estimate of all the evidence available for the solution of the doubts which the critics have raised in relation to this matter, will lead to the inevitable judicial conclusion that the theories of the critics are false, whilst the affirmations of the Bible are true. We give the message in full. It has already appeared in a number of religious periodicals, but it is quite worthy of reproduction here.
DR PARKER'S LAST MESSAGE CONCERNING THE BIBLE
We were brought up amongst simple, unsuspecting believers. They told us that the Bible was all true. They called it " The Holy Bible," and they held it to be such. They told us that Eden was a real place, with real trees and a real serpent. They told us that a four-branched river rolled through the sunny paradise ; we thought that Adam bathed in Hiddekel ; and that the gold that coloured the Pison stream was solid, and yellow, and marketable. We never doubted it. The place on the map was pointed out, with the assurance that if Eden was not there it was thereabouts. Some people believe this still. Spurgeon believed it. In its highest, deepest, grandest meaning, I myself believe it.
Our mothers are responsible for a good deal. They were not literal grammarians, but they were gigantic believers. They used to read to us the story of Joseph and cry over it, and made much of the coat of many colours, and when we came to "your father, the old man of whom ye spake, is he well?" our brawny fathers sobbed and pretended to be only coughing. If anybody had then told us what some people tell us now, that there was no Joseph-no old man-no coat of many colours-no life in Egypt-no forgiving brethren-no family reconciliation-that it is all a dream, a fantasy, an illusion in colour -I know not in what terms he would have been denounced and with what horror he would have been shunned. Some of us still believe in the history of Joseph ; and when all other " short stories " have run out, this story of Joseph will cxact its tribute of tears from the eyes of far-off generations.
Then in this matter of credulity our quaint old pastors were little better than our mothers. If some modern criticism is true, those old pastors were unconscious impostors. They had not a "doubt" to bless themselves with. They read the Bible and actually believed it, and preached it without a stammer. They used to preach about Daniel and the lions' den, and make us feel heroic in the heroism of the brave young man. Now it turns out that there were no lions, there was no den, and worst of all, there was no Daniel. The book of Daniel is taken away bodily. Yet we are told that the Bible has been given back to us by the critics, and that it is a better Book than we had before. Some of us cannot yet receive this saying. At present we are suffering from a grievous sense of loss. Do not suppose, however, that all the higher critics are of one mind, or that they pursue one method, and do not suppose that every minister has given up Joseph and his brethren, or even Daniel and the lions' den. Broad and indiscriminate statements are apt to be untrue and unjust on all sides of great controversies.
Our dear old pastors used to preach about David, and quotingly call him "the sweet singer of Israel "; and now, according to some, it turns out that David was no singer at all, and that he probably never heard of the psalms which he is supposed to have written. Still more widespread is the havoc made by some ruthless sickles. It is bad enough to lose Joseph and his brethren, Daniel and his den, David and his harp, Jonah and his whale, but these are comparative trifles. There was, according to some, no Miraculous Conception, no Ministry of Miracles, no Resurrection of Christ. All is idealism, poetry, dream and hazy myth. Bethlehem and Nazareth disappear from what we used to call the sacred page. In the old, old time, when we were very young, the Christian Church had a heaven and a hell, an immortal soul, a direct revelation from heaven, a book which it called " The Word of God." In those early days we thought ascended ones were " forever with the Lord." We said in a sob which was really a song, " They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." We said that each of them had a crown, a harp, and a white robe. Now we are told that all we supposed to be real was but fancy, mirage, and " the stuff that dreams are made of."
I want you to see that if we yielded to these suggestions and demands, we should be giving up a good deal. Do not suppose that it is easy for the soul to part with its very self-with all the things which would leave only emptiness and mocking echoes behind. Some of us have not even yet given up our faith. Blessed be God, some of us still believe in the whole Bible. We know that translation may have its faults, and that copyists may make blunders, and yet we hold to the whole Book-we still call it The Holy Bible; it is to us in substance and in effect the veritable Word of God.
Yes; we have been asked to give up a good deal, and what, as I have already said, aggravates us most of all, is that we have been asked to believe that the giving of it up has made the Bible more precious than ever to us. Genesis turns out to be mainly fable ; Abram is not a man, but "an eponymous hero"; Joseph "is not" in another and deeper sense ; Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego are mere dreams and nightmares ; the books of Kings and Chronicles are removed bodily; Ecclesiastes and Solomon's Song do not appear to have been in the Bible-yet notwithstanding all this we are to think of the Bible being "given back " to us more precious than ever. We cannot do so all at once. Our training blocks the way. Early impressions are often indelible. It is hard to regard supposed enemies as all at once our disguised friends. For example, many of us were brought up to believe that Tom Pine was an awful character-nothing short, indeed, of an infidel, blatant, presumptuous, defiant. Tom Paine was a kind of moral typhus, or a malignant form of small-pox. Every man who had a copy of " The Age of Reason" kept it in a secret drawer and lent it at nighttime and under a whispered vow of secrecy. To possess "The Age of Reason" was equal to having an infectious and loathsome disease. Bishop Watson answered " The Age of Reason," but the Bishop is now nowhere. Tom Paine's " soul goes marching on," but the Bishop is forgotten, as if his book were a mere escape of gas. Tom Paine showed wonderful insight, and in a manner anticipated all the higher critics.
For example, Tom Paine said, "Whoever wrote the Pentateuch, Moses had little or nothing to do with it." But some who say this very thing have orthodox chairs in English universities and sign even more articles than thirty-nine, whilst Tom Paine is branded as an infidel and has no professional income. Tom Paine said there were at least two Isaiahs, in other words, that the Isaiah who wrote the first part of the book never wrote the second, and perhaps never knew that a second part was written. Some higher critics say the very same thing today, whilst Tom Paine is still regarded by orthodoxy as a most noxious beast. Poor Bishop Watson is on many sides treated as an evangelical milksop, whilst Tom Paine is lauded as a man of progress and of advanced and modern thought. Still we are told that Tom and his successors have given us "back" the Bible, and that it is now more precious than ever. It is not for me to revile Tom Paine; but I take it upon myself to say that no Tom Paine, notwithstanding all his insight and foresight, ought to be in any Free Church pulpit, and if Tom Paine is there, we ought to eject and denounce him as a man who is making a living under false pretences.
It is not to be wondered at that some of us still cling to the Bible after the illiterate and traditional manner of our fathers and mothers and pastors. Blame our training. Take full account of our antecedents. We drew in our love of the Bible with our mother's milk. The Bible helped some of us when the father died and there was neither coal in the grate nor bread in the cupboard. It sanctified our poverty, our struggles, our desolation. It turned the grave into a garden plot. It put heart into us when all other things failed. The Bible has made us men. We are not to be told that this consolatory (not critical) Bible is still left to us. How long will it be left? Still higher critics may possibly arise in distant years who will purloin this jewel also. Who can say how much of the Bible will be left in half a century? We have a right to be suspicious. Where much has gone, more may go. On the whole, therefore, I am of opinion that it is better to hold the Bible very much as we have always held it, to keep an open mind in relation to all competent and reverent criticism, to cling to the Bible in all its proved consolations and particular results, and to leave many difficulties and perplexities to be settled when, in heaven, we have more time and more light.
There is one test to which I cannot but submit every creed, every religion, every book. What kind of manhood has it-produced? What sort of men did the old Bible grow? What of their aspirations, their service, their sacrifice? They were grand men. Perhaps narrow-minded, perhaps austere, perhaps conservative, but they were honourable, determined, self-sacrificing men. They were men who put themselves to a great deal of trouble for others. They gave away much money. They counted not their lives dear unto them. They liberated slaves, they smashed iniquitous monopolies, they founded missionary societies, they dared fire and sword, pestilence and cruelty. They had not the latest learning on the Pentateuch, Isaiah and the: Apocryphal books, but they gripped the Bible with a nerve of steel. They had immense and miracle-working faith. I believe in my heart that they were more self-sacrificing than many who laugh at their ignorance and condemn their narrowness. They believed in the literal inspiration of the Bible, in the immortality of the soul, in eternal punishment, in the atoning death of the Lord Jesus, and they cried after, if finally they might attain, the holiness of God. They were not critics-they were great workers ; not grammarians-but generous givers ; not pedants but unsparing in benevolence and sacrifice. I judge every religion by the men it makes, and so judged, the Bible has no need to be ashamed of its stalwarts and its heroes. Shall I offend scholars and critics, grammarians and pedants, if I frankly say that merely as such they have next to nothing to do with the Bible? That the Bible has little or nothing to say to them in their academical capacity? The Bible seeks and finds the heart, talks to the spirit when in the deepest humility, goes out after the soul in its penitence and mortal hunger. When the reader is least a grammarian he may be nearest the spirit of the book. Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, to this man will I look, to the man that is of a humble and a contrite heart, and that trembleth at My Word." To "tremble" is better than to parse ; in a deep.: and large sense salvation is not of grammar else then only grammarians could have a high place in heaven.
|Chapter 2||Table of Contents||Chapter 4A|