Bibliology: Doctrine of Scripture
General Information About the Text
The Old Testament is written mostly in Hebrew, except for the following sections which are written in Aramaic (constituting about one percent of the Old Testament): Genesis 31:47 (two words), Jeremiah 10:11, Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26, and Daniel 2:4b-7:28.
The Languages of the Old Testament
The Semitic family of languages do not include the oldest known languages - that honor goes to Sumerian, a unique language which is part of no known language family and bears no resemblance to any other known language; it was written with cuneiform characters. The earliest evidence for Semitic tongues are Akkadian texts dating back to the third millennium B.C. Semitic is distantly related to the Hamitic family of languages, which includes Egyptian, and so in its earliest roots, the two are combined into what is called Hamito-semitic. At a point in prehistory, they split into what is called proto-Semitic and proto-Hamitic. From these, arise Egyptian in the Hamitic branch, and on the Semitic side, the northwest Semitic languages of Ugaritic, Moabite, Aramaic and Hebrew and the Southeast Semitic languages such as Akkadian (divisible into two dialects, Babylonian and Assyrian). The earlier Semitic languages, such as Akkadian and Ugaritic have a case system which identifies what role a noun is playing in a sentence. That is, a u tacked on to the end of the word, as in shar, the Babylonian word for prince, gives the form sharu, telling the reader that the word is the subject of the sentence, as in "The Prince hears the Princess". An a tacked on to the end - shara - makes the word the object, as in "the Princess hears the Prince." And an i tacked on at the end as in shari makes the word possessive, as in "the Prince of the Princess".
In later Semitic languages such as Hebrew, the case system has disappeared, so that word order now indicates the job assignments that were previously provided by the case endings. Hebrew is one of the latest of the known Semitic languages. Even Arabic, another Semitic language, appears more ancient in its forms, since it preserves the old Semitic case structure. The different Semitic languages bear a general similarity with each other, as for instance with the word for "sun". In Akkadian it is shamash, in Arabic it is shamps and in Hebrew it is shemesh.
Hebrew was the language of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah respectively. It was used by the Jews until the time of the Babylonian captivity, when the language of the court, Aramaic, came more and more to replace it. When the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian captivity around 536 B.C. the Hebrew language had undergone some significant changes. Aramaic words had been added to the vocabulary, and the alphabet was changed from the Old Hebrew characters to the newer square Aramaic script - which is the form still in use today. After the fall of Jerusalem AD 70 and the subsequent dispersion, Hebrew, already barely more than a liturgical language (used in the Synagogue for reading scripture), ceased to be spoken altogether. Hebrew remained a dead language, known only to scholars until the end of the nineteenth century. With the rise of the Zionist movement in Europe, some Jews started to revive Hebrew as a spoken tongue, so those Jews who moved back into Palestine began speaking to one another in the old Biblical language.
Today, the official language of the modern nation of Israel is Hebrew and except for the addition of a few new words to account for technological change like airplane and automobile the Modern Hebrew language is virtually identical to that of the Bible.
Aramaic, not to be confused with the language spoken by the Arabs today - which is called Arabic - is a Semitic language used by the neo-Babylonians of the time of Nebuchadnezzar II (cf. Book of Daniel). It became the major language of the ancient Near East and was spoken and written by most nations of the area until the rise of Islam subjugated it and replaced it with Arabic.
The language most commonly spoken in Israel in Jesus' day was Aramaic and in fact it is the language that Jesus himself spoke. A few snatches are recorded in the New Testament, but most of what remains are translations of his words into Greek, the language used by the New Testament writers. They used Greek because it was the language of the Roman Empire and the writers of the New Testament were concerned that the message of the gospel should get as wide a readership as possible. The translational nature of Christ's words can be seen, for example, in the wording of the beatitudes; Luke writes simply "blessed are the poor", while Matthew writes "blessed are the poor in spirit". The reason for the slight difference in the wording results from the underlying Aramaic word for "poor", which has both ideas contained within it; Matthew, therefore, was a bit more precise in his translation, since the Greek word for poor generally - like the English term - refers only to those who lack material benefits.
The New Testament is written entirely in Greek, except, as has already been indicated, for a few Aramaic words or phrases: Matthew 27:33, Matthew 27:46, Mark 5:41, Mark 15:22, Mark 15:34, and John 19:17.
Though the native language of the Romans was Latin, the language of the Empire, and especially the eastern half of the empire where the Jews lived, was Greek; the Greeks, though militarily weak, had been culturally powerful, leaving their mark on Roman thinking in everything from their language and theology, to their laws and philosophy. If a person knew Greek, he could get along well in the Roman Empire, just as today, if a person knows English, he'll do better than a person who doesn't.
Origin of the Bible
The Bible had its origin with God, not with man.
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21).
God inspired people to write the scriptures.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
Theories of Inspiration
1.The mechanical or dictation theory
Some teach that God dictated the words of scripture to the various authors, making them in essence secretaries or tape recorders. A few passages (such as Exodus 20:1 and 31:18) do indicate that God was dictating and expected his words to be copied verbatim. Such a concept insures a very high regard for scripture, insuring accuracy and completeness. However the variety of vocabulary and style by the various authors seems to mitigate against this view, because if God were dictating, then there should be a uniformity of style, vocabulary and point of view - which simply is not the case.
2. Partial inspiration
The essence of this view may be summarized by stating that the Bible "contains the word of God." Especially, it is believed that those sections of the Bible that are doctrinal in nature are inspired, while merely history or whatever would not be. The decision as to what is inspired or not is largely left up to the individual to decide.
3. Degrees of Inspiration
Closely related to the concept of partial inspiration is the concept of degrees of inspiration. The bottom line is that some passages in the Bible are more important than others
Inspiration was based on the following criteria:
a. What every man knew - very little, if any inspiration needed.
b. What involved special investigation - still little, if any inspiration necessary.
c. What could not otherwise be known. Those things that required direct intervention by God are the only sections that can claim to be inspired or God-breathed.
This allows, then, for errors and is dependent upon human judgment as to what is true.
4. The concept, not the words inspired
This hypothesis attempts to conceive of thoughts apart from words; that is, the concept being expressed by the words is what is without error and inspired by God, not the actual words themselves.
5. Natural inspiration
Just as the Egyptians excelled in geometry, so the Jews excelled in religion; the inspiration of the Bible is the same as that of any gifted author, and what we see in the Bible is merely human genius at work. And of course, even genius is capable of error.
6. Mystical inspiration
The truthfulness of the Bible depends on the subjective response of the individual. It isn't what the Bible says, but what the Bible says to an individual that is inspired. In this sense, then, the Bible BECOMES the word of God to each person who reads it. Therefore, our conscience, or the indwelling Holy Spirit, tests every external revelation and evaluates it, and determines if it is meaningful and true for the individual involved. Subjective experience takes precedence over objective scripture.
7. Verbal plenary inspiration
Evangelicals generally believe that inspiration is plenary, that is, that it extends to the entire scripture, and verbal, that it applies to the very words of the text, and not merely to the ideas contained in them.
The extent of scripture:
2 Timothy 3:16 - "All scripture..."
2 Peter 3:16 - Peter states that Paul's writings are scripture.
1 Timothy 5:18 - Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4 - "Do not muzzle the ox" and Luke 10:7 "for the laborer is worthy of his hire", thereby equating the Gospel of Luke with the Old Testament scriptures.
Biblical Evidence for Inspiration and Inerrancy
1) 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2) Matthew 5:17-18
3) 2 Peter 1:20-21
4) John 10:34-35
God's Words are True
The law of Yahweh is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of Yahweh are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)
Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true. (Psalm 119:142)
I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:18)
...an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth - (Romans 2:20)
For the word of Yahweh is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. (Psalm 33:4)
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)
Obviously, this involves circular reasoning; we are proving that the Bible is inerrant by using the Biblical claims about itself. However, if the Bible is assumed to be flawed, then obviously it is lying about itself, not simply making unfortunate mistakes. That would make the Bible even less trustworthy.
These verses are useful, however, if we already have the assumption that the Bible is inerrant; also they can silence those critics who might try to claim that the Bible nowhere claims to be without error. Clearly, the sense of the above verses is quite clearly that it is claiming to be without error.
The Nature of God Suggests Inerrancy
We make the assumption that God is perfect; we further assume that he wants to have a relationship with us and is concerned to communicate with us accurately. Therefore, we make the assumption that he has communicated with us, and that this communication is contained in the Bible. Since it has its origin in a perfect God, we thus assume it, too, is perfect. There are several biblical passages which seem to suggest that this is the case.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 22:5)
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O Yahweh,
the God of truth. (Psalm 31:5)
But I trust in you, O Yahweh;
I say, "You are my God." (Psalm 31:14)
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah (Psalm 62:8)
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. (Psalm 78:7)
But Yahweh is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. (Jeremiah 10:10)
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:21)
The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. (John 3:33)
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge." (Romans 3:4)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:6)
We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
...and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. (Rev. 15:3)
Reliability Necessitates It
If we are going to put our trust in the word of God, we have to accept it as reliable; once we open up the possibility of errors in the Bible, where do we stop? The story of the camel is perhaps applicable: once you let it get its nose in the tent, the next thing you know, you'll have the whole creature in there with you. Or better, it is like censorship. Once you allow it, how do you determine objective guidelines - and worse, who is going to have the responsibility for drawing them up, and why? Can one be a little bit pregnant? Or how do you decide when human life begins? First trimester, second? Viability? What are the criteria? Is it arbitrary?
A whole slew of possible analogies present themselves, none of which is entirely perfect, but perhaps one can see the point. The Bible is either true or it isn't; if it has errors, it is hard to put much trust in it.
Of course the answer from those who do posit errors is that errors are a matter of degree. That is, do we reject what the encyclopedia says because we find a single mistake or two of minor quality? Isn't the larger, overall picture still valid?
But take a book like The Coming Economic Earthquake by Larry Burkett. Certainly its major point, that debt can be bad, both for a country as well as for individuals is valid; nevertheless, many of its assumptions and conclusions are overly simplistic and wrong. More seriously, Burkett did a very poor job of research, making many serious factual errors that cast questions about the reliability in general of much of what he has to say. He has not been faithful in small matters...
Five examples can serve to illustrate the problem.
1. p. 27:
"Their spokesman for this New Deal was an articulate aristocrat with a household family name: Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt was born to wealth, raised to wealth, and educated in wealth at Harvard, where he was exposed to the philosophies of Dr. John Maynard Keynes of England. Keynes, an avowed socialist, had long advocated the use of government control over banking and business to ensure prosperity for all. This philosophy was not new. Karl Marx had advocated essentially the same doctrine, only to a more radical group - the poor."
a. John Maynard Keynes was not a socialist. According to the Encycopaedia Britannica:
In Cambridge, to which Keynes now returned, his reputation was rather different. He was quite simply esteemed as the most brilliant student of Alfred Marshall and A.C. Pigou, the two Cambridge economists who between them had produced the authoritative explanation of how competitive markets functioned, business firms operated, and consumers spent their incomes.
Although the tone of Keynes major writings in the 1920's was occasionally skeptical, he did not directly challenge that conventional wisdom of the period that held laissez-faire, only slightly tempered by public policy, the best of all possible social arrangements.
b. It is impossible that Roosevelt was influenced by Keynes in Harvard because Keynes was born on June 5, 1883. Roosevelt was born January 30, 1882. Roosevelt was older than Keynes, and they were both in college about the same time. It seems unlikely that Roosevelt would be studying the philosophy of someone who was himself taking classes at the same time in Cambridge, from firmly laissez-faire capitalist economic teachers - especially when you consider that Keynes had yet to develop the economic philosophy about which Burkett is so critical.
c. Keynes' book, in which he propounded his economic theory of unemployment (Larry Burkett terribly misrepresents and apparently doesn't understand Keynesian economics in the first place) was called The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, which appeared in England at the very end of 1935. Roosevelt had been elected president in 1932.
This is how the Encyclopaedia Britannica summarizes Keynes argument in his book:
The central message is readily translated into two powerful propositions. The first declared the existing theory of unemployment nonsense. In a depression, according to Keynes, there was no wage so low that it could eliminate unemployment. Accordingly, it was wicked to blame the unemployed for their plight. The second proposition proposed an alternative explanation about the origins of unemployment and depression. This centered upon aggregate demand - i.e., the total spending of consumers, business investors, and public agencies. When aggregate demand was low, sales and jobs suffered. When it was high, all was well.
From these generalities there flowed a powerful and comprehensive view of economic behaviour. Because consumers were limited in their spending by the size of their incomes, they were not the source of business cycle fluctuations. The dynamic actors were business investors and governments. In depressions the thing to do was either to enlarge private investment or to create public substitutes for private investment deficiencies. In mild economic contractions, monetary policy in the shape of easier credit and lower interest rates just might stimulate business investment and restore the aggregate demand caused by full employment. Severer contractions required as therapy the sterner remedy of deliberate public deficits either in the shape of public works or subsidies to afflicted groups.
Whether Keynes is right or not is a separate issue. But Burkett's presentation of him is far from accurate, therefore rendering Burkett's conclusions very suspect.
2. p. 72:
"It was assumed that by injecting a modest amount of new currency into the economy, only a modest amount of inflation would follow. Advocates of this plan assured the Kaiser that a modest amount of inflation would be manageable and would actually allow producers to reap more profits, thus helping to repay the Weimar Republic's debts with cheaper currency."
a. Germany did not have a Kaiser after World War I. How could there be advisors to this non-existent person? Following World War I, the Kaiser abdicated and moved to Holland, together with his family. Before the rise of Hitler, Germany had a popularly elected, democratic government.
3. p. 165:
"This is what George Orwell described as 'government speak' in his novel 1984."
Orwell called it "Newspeak".
4. p. 166:
"Then in the sixties President Nixon substituted the use of base metal coins for silver coins effectively removing all fixed asset value from U.S. currency."
The coins were changed from silver to nickel/copper sandwiches in 1965. Nixon did not take office as president until January, 1969.
5. p. 198:
"Once the word was made public, investors outside the U.S. rushed to convert their U.S. dollars into the E.C. Eurodollar, adopted as the official world currency by virtually all members of the World Economic Council, excluding the United States of course."
Although Burkett is describing a fictionalized account of a possible future crisis in 1999, what he is describing would be a remarkable trick indeed, considering what Eurodollars are, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Eurodollars, deposits of United States dollars in foreign banks obligated to pay in U.S. dollars when the deposits are withdrawn.
In essence, Eurodollars are simply U.S. dollars that happen to be in European banks. If Burkett's scenario took place, I suspect the Europeans would find the Eurodollars just as worthless as the U.S. dollars - since they are the same thing.
The sorts of errors that we find in Mr. Burkett's book are the same sort of flaws that are postulated for the Bible. If we wouldn't care to trust or read Larry Burkett's book, then why should we accept the possibility of such errors in the Bible? The Bible would then be just as worthless.
By its nature, a presupposition Geisler has pointed out the following regarding the Bible and error:
In summation, the denial of the inerrancy of Scripture is not primarily a factual problem, though it has factual dimensions, to be sure. The root problem of modern errancy is philosophical. And the apostle Paul has urged us to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). In view of this it seems to me that the best refutation of biblical errancy is a clear exposition of the premises on which it is built, whether these presuppositions be grounded in inductivism, materialism, rationalism, or naturalism.
Hence, the rise of an errant view of Scripture did not result from a discovery of factual evidence that made belief in an inerrant Scripture untenable. Rather, it resulted from the unnecessary acceptance of philosophical premises that undermined the historic belief in an infallible and inerrant Bible.
The presupposition is either: the Bible is principally the work of God, and therefore, because of the nature of God, without error. Or, the Bible is primarily the work of human beings, and because of the nature of human beings, inevitably with error.
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