Imágenes de páginas

takeable unity of function1. Like the human eye, or the trained conscience of a human being, the Bible is an organism respecting which we may reasonably think that we can in some degree trace the stages of its growth and development. And just as the question of the manner in which an organism or faculty is developed is entirely distinct from the question of its true function and capacities when in a developed state 2, so in the case of Scripture, the question of the nature and use of the complete organism, the product viewed in its entirety, is one, comparatively speaking, unaffected by inquiries relating to its structure and formation. The mystery with which we are face to face in Scripture is that of a message or word from God, a divine book, which, as a matter of age-long experience, has actually produced in every period which has followed its completion spiritual results of infinite magnitude and importance. It is the total product, the complete work, which fulfils such vast and varied functions in the spiritual history of mankind 3. Questions in regard to the mode of its formation are secondary. When the different oral accounts of Christ's life were first committed to writing, there can be little doubt that the earliest narrative was that which recorded His public acts and utterances during the

1 An ancient expositor of the Psalms, Didymus of Alexandria, compares Scripture to the seamless robe of Christ: οὐ γὰρ βεβιασμένην ἔνωσιν, ἀλλὰ συμφυῆ ἔχει· ἔστιν δὲ καὶ ἄνωθεν διὰ τὸ θεόπνευστος εἶναι ὑφαντὸς δι ̓ ὅλου, διὰ πάσης γὰρ δυνάμεως ἡ γραφὴ ἄνωθέν ἐστιν (in Psalm. xxi. 19). 2 Cp. Wace, Boyle Lectures, ser. i. p. 18.

Cp. Sanday, Bampton Lectures, p. 402: 'If we take a wider range, and look at the diversified products of this individual inspiration, and see how they combine together, so as to be no longer detached units but articulated members in a connected and coherent scheme, we must needs feel that there is something more than the individual minds at work; they are subsumed, as it were, in the operation of a larger Mind, that central Intelligence which directs and gives unity of purpose to the scattered movements and driftings of men.' Dalman, Das A. T. ein Wort Gottes, p. 10, observes that for our Lord and the New Testament writers, 'im Grunde liegt der Nachdruck nicht auf der Weise der Entstehung der biblischen Bücher, sondern auf dem Resultat des litterarischen Processes dem sie entstammen.'

period of His sacred ministry; the mystery of His birth was one in which the Church was keenly interested, but for an answer to her questionings she could, it would seem, afford to wait. The point of primary importance to the earliest believers was not whence our Lord came, but what He was, what He did, what He claimed of man when He actually appeared. By analogy we may regard the Bible as a book in which the continuous spiritual experience of mankind has recognized the very presence of the Word of God: the declaration of His whole mind and will concerning His creatures, the unveiling of His character and of His everlasting purpose of grace 1. Here is something which historical and critical study cannot impair. A leading critic of the Old Testament has used words which admirably express the result of Christian experience on this point. Of this I am sure . . . that the Bible does speak to the heart of man in words that can only come from God-that no historical research can deprive me of this conviction or make less precious the divine utterances that speak straight to the heart. For the language of these words is so clear that no re-adjustment of their historical setting can conceivably change the substance of them. Historical study may throw a new light on the circumstances in which they were first heard or written. In that there can only be gain. But the plain, central, heartfelt truths, that speak for themselves and rest on their own indefensible worth, will assuredly remain to us?.?

2. This point which we have barely touched upon here will be recalled at the close of the present lecture. Meanwhile we pass on to consider some further teachings suggested by the fruitful analogy of the Incarnation. We have seen that it illustrates

1 Cp. Iren. Haer. iv. 5. 1: Quoniam impossibile erat sine Deo discere Deum, per verbum suum docet homines scire Deum.'

2 Robertson Smith, O. T. in J. C. lect. i. p. 19. The whole of this admirable lecture is worthy of careful study.


the divine unity of Scripture as fulfilling a special function in the spiritual history of mankind. But the same analogy reminds us of a duality of natures1. As Christ was at once divine and human, so Scripture is found to have a twofold aspect. We shall be prepared to recognize frankly that on one side it is perfectly human, when we remember that about the incarnate Son when He appeared on earth all was simple, plain, natural, common. He was found in fashion as a man. The great trial indeed for our Lord's contemporaries -the trial under which average Jewish faith actually broke down-was the simplicity and the plainness of His outward appearance. Is not this, they said, the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses, and of Juda and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him2. Now similarly Scripture is found to have a literary history, exceptional indeed in certain respects, but by no means entirely mysterious or inexplicable. In In proportion as critical science advances, we recognize that in its letter, in its prima facie appearance, Scripture is, if I may so say, more human, more ordinary. It displays to a certain extent the same traces of human workmanship, human compilation, even human limitation and fallibility, as are discoverable in other products of oriental literature. The Pentateuch for example, or at least a considerable portion of it, proves to be a collection of fragments gathered together no one can certainly say how, when, or by whom. If we take a more general survey of the Old Testament, we find that, in spite of the impressive unity of purpose which pervades the whole, there is a remarkable diversity in the types of literary production incorporated in it. All species of composition known to the ancient Hebrews would seem to have been utilized, in so far as they

1 This thought is worked out with admirable skill in Abp. Magee's sermon on 'The Bible human and yet divine.' See The Gospel and the Age, pp. 311 foll.

2 Mark vi. 3.

were capable of becoming adequate vehicles of spiritual teaching. We have in fact to deal with a library in the Old Testament-a library containing history, poetry, proverbs, philosophical discussions, annals, genealogies, semi-historical folk-lore, and primitive myths. It is evidently a literature which, as Ewald has remarked, has shaped itself just as freely as that of all other ancient nations. It is distinguished by an extraordinary simplicity, vigour, and naturalnessa simplicity which is owing not to any deficiency of refinement or culture in the periods which produced. the several books, but to the dominant power of a true religion',' or rather to the continuous and controlling guidance of the self-revealing Spirit of God. There is then admittedly a human side to Scripture, and the condescension which we witness in the Incarnation of the Son of God prepares us to find that in the Old Testament God has left to the human instruments of His will more than we had once supposed 2. He has employed different types of mind and character to execute or advance His purposes. In the recording of His acts and words He has sanctioned the employment of literary methods which in a higher stage of culture might be judged inappropriate. He has consecrated individual peculiarities or special intellectual endowments to ends of His own. The result is that to the critical eye Scripture wears an ordinary and occasionally even humble exterior; it is not free from such ordinary defects, limitations, and errors, as are incident to all human composition; but under this lowly form is concealed a special divine presence 3. Here, as in the Incarnation, may be discerned the self-unveil1 H. Ewald, Revelation, its Nature and Record (Eng. Tr., T. &T. Clark), p. 320.

See Sanday, The Oracles of God, serm. ii.

3 Jukes, The Types of Genesis, p. xvi, ‘Christ the incarnate Word of God seems to me, not an illustration only, but a proof, both of the preciousness of the letter, and of the deeper spirit which everywhere underlies the letter throughout the word of God.' The same point underlies Origen's distinction between the 'flesh' and 'spirit' of Scripture (de Princ. iv. 11 and 14).

ing of a divine Spirit, the operation of divine power, the appeal of divine love. These I repeat are great realities of the spiritual world, which have been put to the test by a thousand generations of Christians. Their experience has shown that the highest office of Scripture is one that transcends the range and sphere of critical investigation. The appeal of the Spirit who speaks in Scripture is to man's spirit; the appeal of power is to man's sense of need; the appeal of love is to the faculties of man's heart and will.

3. For there is one further point in this fruitful analogy which may be profitably mentioned. We may consider the importance of the self-witness of Scripture. On the one hand, like our Lord's human body, the Bible is a thing in rerum natura, a book among books; on the other, its self-witness challenges us to acknowledge a higher claim; it speaks as having authority; it claims to be something more than a mere human compilation. Just as Jesus Christ arrested the attention of men, drew them to Himself by the exercise of an incomparable moral authority, and put forward superhuman claims to their allegiance, so Scripture appears to challenge inquiry and to claim authority in virtue of its direct bearing on conduct and character, its continual appeal to faith and its express testimony to the divine purpose for humanity. for humanity. A book that touches human life at every point cannot be of merely human origin. It bears the impress of a controlling mind; it displays the action of an informing Spirit, who knows what is in man. St. Paul even speaks of the Old Testament as a living personality: it sees beforehand the purpose of God's electing grace; it preaches the gospel to Abraham. This aspect of Scripture is one which lies outside the scope of critical inquiry.


1 Gal. iii. 8; cp. Rom. ix. 17.-'For us and for all ages,' says Bishop Westcott, 'the record is the voice of God; and as a necessary consequence the record is itself living. It is not a book merely. It has a vital connection with our circumstances and must be considered in connection with them. The constant use of the present tense in quotation (λέγει τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, λέγει ἡ γραφή κ.τ.λ.) emphasises this idea!" (The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 475-)

« AnteriorContinuar »