Walther Round Table
Walther's Evening Lectures on Inspiration
Translated by Dr. Thomas Manteufel, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, Missouri
Presented to the Walther Round Table, 2005-2007
The Question of Inspiration
C. F. W. Walther’s Evening Lectures,1885-1886
Lecture I (November 29, 1885)
You asked me, dear friends, after we concluded the treatment of our important topic in our so-called " Lutherstunde," to speak now to you about the inspiration of Holy Scripture. I can do nothing but approve this wish of yours. To be sure, Inspiration is a part of our regular Dogmatics lessons. But it has such an outstanding position among our doctrines that it is certainly worthy of and needs a special, on-going study. And secondly, this doctrine of inspiration belongs to the burning theological questions today and among these is without doubt the most significant, for with the doctrine of inspiration the certainty, truth, and divinity of Holy Scripture stands and falls, and with it the whole Christian religion and church. It is not only one doctrine among others, but it is rather the basis of all other doctrines, on which they are raised up. If Holy Scripture was produced by human will, not inspired by the Holy Spirit, then it is not a divine but a human book. They may say to us: "We maintain that what Holy Scripture contains about the gaining and attaining of salvation is of divine origin and therefore infallible; we just think that human error in Scripture is the nonessential and secondary material, which does not have an immediate connection with the doctrine of salvation and is not free from error." They may say this to us, but the qualification does not help matters, for with the assertion that human errors are interspersed in Scripture, not only this part but the entire Holy Scripture is made to shake and waver before us. For if the reader is set over Holy Scripture as judge, that he should distinguish what is essential and nonessential, what is divine and not divine, what is true and false, then surely the Christian Church has always until now been stuck in a gross error, caught in a dreadful deception, namely, that it has held Holy Scripture to be the pure source, the infallible norm, the highest teacher and judge in all doctrines and religious controversies; then up to now the church has stood on a sandy foundation; then we cannot say to a Christian, when he opens the Bible, "Oh, you must declare with Samuel: Speak, Lord, your servant listens"; then one must rather warn all Bible readers that they should not surrender to Holy Scripture with full confidence, that they should read Scripture with great caution, that they should test everything and only hold to what is good. Ah, to what an abyss modern theology has led us! Well, then, let me give a series of simple lectures on the doctrine of inspiration. God grant me His Holy Spirit for this, the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of faith; and may the Lord open your hearts as He did Lydia’s, so that you may be strengthened in your faith in these troubled last times. For it is the time of which the Lord says: False Christians shall rise up, and false prophets, who do signs and wonders, so that they could even, if it were possible, deceive the elect. In these lessons we will reply to the following 6 questions:
I. What does Holy Scripture itself say of its character and origin?
1. It plainly calls itself
a. "the book"
b. "the Scripture" or "the Scriptures".
2. It expressly calls itself
a. the Book of the Lord
b. the Law of the Lord
c. Holy Scripture
d. the Word of God or the Words of God
e. the holy letters.
3. It (a) makes no distinction between what the holy writers once preached orally and what they wrote, and therefore it also (b) speaks of their writings as utterances of preaching persons.
4. It sets (a) the writings of the Old Testament equal with those of the New, and likewise (b)the apostles of the New with the prophets in the Old Testament.
5. It expressly pronounces the scriptures of the prophets to be God’s revelation of the eternal mysteries of His will.
6. It pronounces itself
a. to be the single and infallible norm in all questions of faith and life
b. to which nothing is to be added and from which nothing is to be taken away.
7. It declares
a. that no prophecy or scripture has been brought forth by the will of men
b. that the whole Scripture, therefore all the books which it contains, are inspired by God
c. that the holy writers have spoken, driven by the Holy Spirit
d. that it was not so much they, the holy writers, who spoke, as God, specifically the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ, who spoke through them.
8. It declares
a. that the Holy Spirit gave the holy writers not only what, but also how they should speak
b. that the Holy Spirit taught them with what words they should speak
c. that He spoke through their mouths or put the words in their mouths
d. that their tongues were the pen of a skillful writer.
II. What does the ancient church after the time of the apostles up to the time of the Reformation say about the inspiration of Holy Scripture?
Clement of Rome
Clement of Alexandria
III. What did Luther teach about the inspiration of Holy Scripture?
IV. What does our church teach in its public books about the inspiration of Holy Scripture?
V. What objections against the inspiration of Holy Scripture, as it has been revealed by Scripture itself and attested by the ancient church, as well as the church of the Reformation, with Luther at the forefront, have been vainly brought by the Rationalists and theologians of modern belief ?
VI. Why must we, as God’s grace and our salvation are dear to us, hold fast to the pure doctrine of the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and why may we give up not a tittle of it?
Thesis I.1.a. Scripture plainly calls itself "the book."
What does Scripture itself say of its own character and origin? It plainly names itself: the book. This sounds as if this designation were to be viewed as something minor. But just picture to yourself, if I had said: "The book I have written"–the book, the book." I could say "a book," but if I say the book, then I must be assuming something more, then it is the book kat’ eksochen, excelling all others. When Scripture says that it is the book, that the Scripture contained in it, taken together in its entirety, is one book, it is a unique book, as no other book can be. It declares thereby that it alone in the highest sense of the word deserves the name: the book. In this sense in which Holy Scripture names itself and is named, there is no other. It is the same when it is simply called:" the Scripture." We have heard that so often that we say that it is a trite expression. Only Holy Scripture can be called "the Scripture." Unbelievers speak of the Bible as "the book" and do not consider at all that they could not give the Bible a more majestic name than they are doing.
Lecture II (December 4, 1885)
My friends, we dare not deny that faith in the inspiration of Holy Scripture runs into great difficulties; so it is no wonder that the old believing theologians regarded it as their office to solve these difficulties for others, to strengthen the wavering and make them certain. And if they came upon difficulties that they could not solve, they reverently doffed their little doctors’ hats and bowed before Holy Scripture and looked upon themselves as pupils and the Holy Spirit as their teacher, and said: These difficulties will be solved, if not here, then certainly and gloriously in eternity. Of that they had not the slightest doubt. And how often it was shown that people said at certain times:" Here is an error in Scripture," and it had to be clarified later by some discovery that Scripture could not have spoken otherwise than it did. I will not give any example here; we will speak about this at another time. Ah, how utterly different it is with the modern theologians! When they find something in Scripture which they cannot harmonize, they say right away: "There you can see for sure that there are errors also in Scripture, even there mistakes are found, and therefore inspiration is nothing more than a pious delusion."
To be sure, this contains a dreadful accusation against these theologians. But only eight days ago I gave a double example of it from recent times. Two professors at the University of Dorpat in Russian Livonia, called there from Germany, who up to then had been regarded as Bible-believing theologians, even as confessional theologians, were misled to invite the educated people of their city to the lecture hall of their university building, where they held lectures and wanted to show that it is going too far to say that the whole Scripture is verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. And the miserable men divided up the work. One sought to show that we do not have the original text at all. That is because there are so many variant readings, and our Bible has arisen out of these. This was Professor [Ferdinand] Muehlau. The other Professor, [Wilhelm] Volck, sought to show that the text contains many erroneous things. Thus the old proverb has been fulfilled: To err is human. What was the result of these lectures? Nothing other than what was inevitable. I will give only one example. After an elderly lady had heard the lectures, she cried out with tears in her eyes: "Now I cannot read the Bible any more!" Dreadful, dreadful. Who is not reminded of the fearful saying of Christ in Matt.18:6? "But whoever offends one of these little ones who believes in Me, it would be better for him if a millstone were hanged around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea." This old lady has lost salvation in this lecture, lost her faith, and only God knows whether she will again be healed, whether the wounds which these theologians have inflicted can be healed again. Even if the theories of these theologians were correct, that what belongs to salvation in Scripture is settled but what does not belong to salvation is not, it would still be a great offense to present these theories to the poor people who certainly are unable to know how one must, despite all this, recognize Holy Scripture as the source of saving truth. For now I will concede only this much. Even if it were true, what these theologians must be thinking (they must have been thinking: "even if it be so, that a prophet gave an incorrect number, what harm does it do?"), you dare not say it to any one who cannot explain it to himself; that is only for those who are trained in scholarship. They should have done this for the sake of the weak.
But the devil drives them; they have to let out their unbelief. The devil has so overturned them in unbelief that they spread their unbelief further. If any one thinks this judgment is too harsh, he hasn’t judged how important these things are. Woe to our church if no able men come out against them, who testify and protest against them and show that it has all sprung from impertinent reason.
The purpose of these evening lectures of ours is to show you that the inspiration of Holy Scripture stands fast and will stand fast until the Last Day. You will be overthrown just as little as the church, which God Himself has founded. Even the gates of Hell are not allowed to overthrow it, much less these men! It is true that they can seduce many, and the salvation of many is destroyed thereby.
To the first question of our lectures the answer is: It calls itself the book, the Scripture. If Scripture spoke of itself as a human book stained with errors, we would be fools if we would regard it as God’s book. First we must know what Scripture declares itself to be. What therefore does Scripture say of itself? It plainly calls itself: the book. Thereby it declares that other books are not to be looked upon as such, if they are compared with it. For consider: if one asked a man: "What good have you brought about in your life?"and he would answer: "I have written the book," would we not regard him as confused? If he said: "I have written a book," we could understand that. But Scripture so speaks of itself that no other book bears comparison with it.
Thesis I.1.b. Scripture plainly calls itself "the Scripture" or "the Scriptures."
It calls itself: "the Scripture," or "the Scriptures" –of course with reference to the different biblical books. It is the same case with the plural as with the singular. Now hear first the passages in which the term "the Scripture" is used and where it is said that it is to be found in the books and in the prophets.
Matt. 21:42: "Have you never read in the Scriptures (en tais graphais):’The stone which the builders rejected, that has become the cornerstone?’" This passage agrees with Matt 22:29: "You err, not knowing the Scriptures (tas graphas)," which refers then (in verse 32) to Ex. 3:6: "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." (The parallel is Mark 12:24). The Lord means that they do not know what stands written in Ex. 3:6.
Matt. 26:54, 56: "But how then shall the Scriptures (hai graphai) be fulfilled?. . . But all this was done that the Scriptures (hai graphai) of the prophets might be fulfilled" (also in Mark14:49), with reference to Ps. 69:9. It is enough for Him to say simply: "the Scriptures, " (not: "the Holy Scriptures"), by which He wants to say: This is God’s Word and this must be fulfilled.
Mark:15:28: "The Scripture (he graphe) was fulfilled which says: "And He was numbered with the transgressors." "The Scriptures"and "the Scripture" designate the same thing. It appeals to Is. 53:12.
Luke 24:45: "He opened to us the Scriptures (tas graphas)." Previously (verse 27) it was already indicated to us that all the prophets speak of Christ. Luke 24:44: "All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms." The Lord reckons these to be the books of the entire "Scriptures" (verse 45).
John10:35: "The Scripture cannot be broken." Does this mean that we cannot depart from Scripture? Or does He not rather say that it stands there but we don’t believe it? These words refer to Ps.82: 6, quoted in John 10:34: "You are gods."
John 2:22: "When He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them, and they believed the Scripture." John 5:39: "Search the Scriptures, for you think that in them you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me." John 13:18, quoting from Ps. 41:10: "But the Scripture must be fulfilled: He who eats My bread treads Me under foot." The Lord cites the different books of the Old Testament and declares the totality of them to be a whole. What is true of the whole must also be said of the individual parts.
John 19:24 appealing to Ps. 22:19: "That the Scripture might be fulfilled, which says: They have divided My garments among them, and for My dress they have cast lots." Acts 1:16,20: "The Scripture must be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before through the mouth of David concerning Judas. . . For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling be desolate, and let no one dwell therein,’ and ‘His office let another take.’" There the whole Scripture, including Ps. 69:25 and Ps. 109:8, is declared to be kat’ eksochen. If the modern theologians were right, the Bible would be the most blasphemous book ever written. But the Bible proves itself to those who really believe in it. Unfortunately, there are so many, who stick fast in Adam’s flesh and are a shame and a reproach for the church. Acts 17:2,11:"Paul, as was his custom, went in among them, and for three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures. . . [The Bereans] searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so." Thus the apostles did not find it necessary to set aside the Holy Scriptures. "To err is human" dare not be applied to the prophets. Acts 18:24-28: "And a Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. . .He powerfully refuted the Jews, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ."
Rom. 9:17: "The Scripture says to Pharaoh"–citing from Ex. 9:16 and 14:4, 17. Rom. 4:3: "What does the Scripture say?"– citing Gen. 15:6. Rom.10:11: "For the Scripture says"– citing from Is. 28:16 and Ps. 25:3. Rom. 11:2: "Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah"– with reference to 1 Kings 19:10, 14. Citations are made here also from the historical books, and therefore it is godless to make a distinction between the writings and books; the Scriptures and the apostles make no distinction here.
Rom. 15:4: "Whatever was written before, was written to us for teaching." "Whatever" (hosa, qualiscumque) means "all of it, whatever." Now the Dorpat men say: Not all, for it is false, there are errors of memory. 1 Cor. 15:3, 4: "For I delivered to you, as of first importance, what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose the third day, according to the Scriptures." Speaking of "Scripture," Gal. 4:30 cites from Gen. 21:10, 1 Tim. 5:18 from Deut. 25:4, and 2 Tim. 3:16 from Is. 8:20.
2 Pet. 1:20, literally: "Every prophecy arose not by someone’s own explanation." "Every prophecy" (pasa propheteia) = the entire content of Scripture, for Scripture is the prophets. By revelation and the exposition of the will of God for our salvation is meant not only the prophecies, but also the whole revelation of the will of God. See Gerhard’s Loci Theologici, Locus I and II. The Bible was called the book, the Scripture, because it is the book that has originated from God. Luther: "The Spirit speaks as if He did not know that there are any other books, although the whole world is full of them." (Walch, first edition, Vol. IX, p. 1364).
Lecture III (December 11, 1885)
The fact, my friends, that the Bible, that is, the collection of the writings of the Old and New Testaments, or the writings of the Old and New Testaments, are really and truly inspired by God Himself in every part; that therefore the Bible is written by God Himself, even if not with His own hand, like the Ten Commandments; that God is the author, the composer of the Bible and all its writings are not men’s work but God’s–for all these facts I can on my part bring no more striking proof than the way Christ, the Son of God, Himself used the Holy Scriptures. When Satan once attempted a combat with Christ, to tempt Him (Matt. 4:1-10), Christ struck him three times, one blow after the other, with a Bible verse, in which He said openly and solemnly: "It is written."
While He otherwise often appeals to His own authority, for example, "You have heard that it was said to those of old time. . . But I say to you. . .", here we find that He appeals to the authority of Scripture. With that He declares openly that Scripture is entirely equal to His own authority. One dare not now say:"Perhaps Christ’s argument was only from a human standpoint (kat’ anthropon)); He wants only to hit the devil with his own weapon, because the devil assumes a false principle." That can certainly not be said, for Scripture is not the devil’s weapon, he hates it. But, on the contrary, the devil uses Scripture and with it does supply a proof "from a human standpoint," but only with a falsified proof text. That is, he leaves out the words "in all your ways." But what does Christ now do? He does not enter into a dispute with the devil, but He sets against the mangled Word of God one that is not mangled.
Furthermore, when Christ had one time testified before a great crowd that He was equal to God and when the Jews wanted to stone Him for this blasphemy, what does Christ do then? He did not extinguish the lights of heaven, He performed no miracles, but He holds out a little Bible passage (Ps. 82:6) against them and after He has done that, He adds: "And the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). He thereby declares Scripture to be the all-decisive judge, to which everyone must subject himself and from which no one can appeal to a higher one. When the Emmaus disciples could not believe that Christ had arisen and appeared to them, what does He do then? He does not show them His wounds, which He might otherwise have done, but He proves His resurrection from Scripture and thereby declares that the testimony of Scripture is just as certain as His own personal appearance. Now, my friends, imagine for a moment that Scripture were not God’s Word, and compare that with how Christ used Scripture. That leaves you no choice. Either you must consider Christ a fool, or Scripture must be God’s Word. Now I leave this thought with you, for your own meditation, for this way of thinking will surely lead you to the goal. We continue with our first question.
We have now heard the first answer, namely, that it calls itself (a) the Book, (b) the Scripture. But the Bible speaks still more majestically of itself and adds something: in what sense it is the Book: it explicitly calls itself (a) the Book of the Lord, (b) the Law of the Lord, (c) the Holy Scriptures, (d) the Word of God or the Words of God, (e) the holy letters.
Thesis I.2.a. Scripture explicitly calls itself the Book of the Lord.
That we find in Is. 34:16: "Seek, now, in the Book of the Lord and read!" What book can properly call itself "the Book of the Lord"? But it says it of itself, and it can mean nothing else than that it is the book of its author, the Lord. What would you think of a man who said: "I have written the Book of the Lord"? He would be a wicked man. I indeed can say: "God’s Word is in my book,"but not: "This is the Book of the Lord." And in this passage, Is.34:16, it is added: "not one of them shall be missing." It is a perfect book. It is God’s Spirit who brings it all together.
Thesis I.2.b. Scripture explicitly calls itself the Law of the Lord.
There you especially need to note that by "Law of the Lord" is understood not only the Ten Commandments, not even only the Law of Moses, but all the Scripture of the Old Testament. See John10:34: "Is it not written in your Law: ‘I said, You are gods’?" There Christ quotes Ps.82. By that He intends to say,"Is it not written in the Old Testament?" The papists want to give a big help to themselves by saying: "It is written in the Law of the Lord; that does not refer to the whole Scripture." But the Lord refutes them in that He says that whatever is written in Scripture belongs to the Law of the Lord. Jer. 8:8: "How can you say:’we know what is right and have the Law of the Lord’ (Torat Yahweh in Hebrew, which Luther translates heilige Schrift, Holy Scripture, in his Bible)’?" By "Law" Jeremiah understands "the Word of Truth." Psalm 1:1-2: "Blessed is he who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit where the scornful sit, but has delight in the Law of the Lord and meditates on His Law day and night." Quite plainly the whole Scripture is meant. Neh. 8:8: "And they read in the book of the Law of the Lord clearly and giving the sense."
Thesis I.2.c. Scripture explicitly calls itself the Holy Scriptures.
For Rom. 1:2 says: "the Gospel of God, which He promised beforehand by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures." That collectively takes in everything which can be said of the Bible of the Old Testament.
Thesis I.2.d. Scripture explicitly calls itself the Word of God or the Words of God.
I will now bring in some examples of this, although it often occurs; but such passages are always necessary so that one may see from them that the entire Bible is meant by these designations, so that one cannot fall into saying: "Yes, the doctrine is salvific, but we ask whether the whole Scripture is the Word of God. One can perhaps say: God’s Word is in Scripture, but it is too much to say: Scripture is God’s Word." But by this they contradict themselves. If the Bible is not God’s Word, then it is a book of human lies. Rom. 3:1, 2: "What advantage, then, does the Jew have, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the words of God (ta logia tou theou)." Scripture is the words of God, for that is what it calls itself. From this statement they can see, as often as they come upon it, that the Bible is called God’s Word; otherwise we make the Word of God only equal to every sermon in which God’s Word occurs, and the Word of God is still presumed to be "a good sermon." May God preserve us from this, or we are lost. For if we come into peril of death and want to cling to a verse, the devil whispers to us: "Yes, but do you know whether this is God’s Word, it just may be false," etc., and so takes away a blessed death from us.
The Koran also contains much of God’s Word, it calls Christ the Son of God, teaches his ascension into heaven, etc., and nevertheless it is a book that comes from hell. In Ps. 119:38 you see that the pious king David also was troubled by the question whether the Bible is God’s Word, but he threw himself on his knees and prayed, "Let Your command hold firm for Your servant as Your Word, that I may fear You." And if you want to attain to certainty, you must strike out on the same path. Luther says: "Pray for faith, or you will always remain without faith." And it is most necessary that you should have faith, who are to preach Christianity from Holy Scripture and are to bring others to salvation by it. There is no more unhappy man than a preacher who does not believe that Holy Scripture is God’s Word. It burns under his feet as he stands in the chancel. The thought comes to him: "You are a miserable man; you preach something to the people, though you don’t believe it yourself and it’s not true." Don’t despair, if you too often think: "Ah, I don’t believe, either; for as often as some objection is brought against God’s word, a pain goes through my heart, and the thought comes: ‘In the end the objection is right.’ You all must experience such a battle; you should not be surprised at that. On the contrary, it would be a wonder, if you did not need to experience such afflictions, for we live in a time in which the whole atmosphere is poisoned with this evil teaching and we also have to breathe it.
Thesis I.2.e. Scripture explicitly defines itself as the holy letters.
That is to say, we read in 2 Tim. 3:15: "From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures" (literally in Greek, ta hiera grammata, the holy letters). We will believe that every letter is from the Holy Spirit, and He says: "Not a tittle"-- little hook--"shall pass away before heaven and earth pass away" [Matt. 5:18]. But what do they care about that? The Lord Jesus can cry out ever so loud what I am saying here, but they still don’t believe Him.
Thesis I.3. a. Scripture itself makes no distinction between what the holy writers once preached orally and what they wrote.
The third answer to our first question makes no distinction between what the holy writers once proclaimed orally and what they wrote, and therefore it also speaks of their writings as of proclaiming persons. A subterfuge which is now usually made, is this: When the holy apostles spoke, they were so filled with the Spirit that what poured forth out of their mouth was infallible, but when they wrote, this was not the case. When they spoke, the Holy Spirit drove them, but when they wrote, then they meditated, and then mistakes occurred.
Luke 16:29: "They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them." Here Christ does not intend to say that Moses still dwelt among them, but He obviously means the writings of these men. With that it is very definitely declared that between what they spoke and what they wrote, there was no difference, for what such men said, they also wrote.
Jer. 30:2: "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: "Write in a book all the words which I have spoken to you." It is ridiculous when they say: "If you speak, it is God’s Word, but if you write, then it is something else altogether."
1 John 1:3, 4: "What we have seen and heard, that we declare to you, that you may also have fellowship with us; and your fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things (tanta = exactly that) we write to you, that your joy may be full." They therefore made no distinction, but testified to them that what they had written was entirely the same as what they had proclaimed. See Gerhard, Isagogic. Loci Theol., Loc. I, 7. The papists make this distinction in order to exalt their traditions, and the modern theologians do it in order to make the Bible unstable. They even say that the whole Bible is God’s Word, but by that they are not saying that every tittle is God’s Word, but that taken as a whole it is God’s Word. Therefore it cannot be discovered from the Bible what God’s Word is!
Lecture IV (December 18,1885)
Among the many kinds of charges, my friends, which the so-called modern theologians of our day have raised against the Inspiration doctrine of the old dogmaticians, one of the most significant and universal is this: the old dogmaticians, in their continual emphasis on the divine side of Holy Scripture, did not do justice to its human side. They speak so extravagantly as to assert: In this connection the old dogmaticians were one kind of Docetist–referring to the teaching (from dokeo, appear) that the Son of God in Christ never really became man, but what appeared to be human in Him was only illusion. The old dogmaticians supposedly did the same thing to Scripture: "In their teaching the human side of Scripture was obscured, indeed completely done away with and made a mere illusion." But this is not true by any means. The old dogmaticians certainly taught that in a certain sense Holy Scripture also has a human side. But what did they mean by that? They taught, first, that Holy Scripture was, to be sure, not written by the fingers of God Himself, as the Ten Commandments originally were, but were written through the prophets and apostles. Second, they declared that in Scripture the language of heaven is not to be found–that of which the Apostle Paul says that he heard unutterable words, when he was transported by the Spirit, but the eternal Word of God was clothed in temporal human speech and human writing. They further taught expressly that the prophets and apostles did not write their scripture in some kind of ecstacy, in a rapture, as the oracles of antiquity alleged in their oracles, but they declared that the holy writers wrote what they wrote with full awareness; but the Holy Spirit moved them and accommodated and adapted Himself to the style which the holy writers had as their own. But, to be sure, the old dogmaticians taught, and we along with them: as the Son of God became a true man in Christ, but without sin, so the eternal Word of God became a true human speech, but without error. But who would assert that a man who has no sin is not a true man, but only an illusion? So what is the meaning of this cry: "The old inspiration doctrine is nothing, does not do justice to the human side of Scripture"? What do they want to say? They want to charge that we err in not being willing to recognize any errors in Scripture, but regard it not only as the best book, but as the book of truth in the highest and fullest sense of the word. They want us to join them in denying the divine origin of the book; they want us, as often as we have a passage before us, to say with that spirit: "Has God really said this?" But as long as God preserves us in His grace, we will not repeat this after that fallen spirit, but as often as we open our Bible, we intend to think of the word of the prophet Isaiah: "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord speaks." That should be our emblem on the battlefield, we should emblazen these words on our banner, and we trust alone under this sign for victory. Surely, if ever our synod should no longer hold this banner aloft, then her fall would not merely be imminent but would have already taken place. Then it is far out, that it should be thrown out from this earth like the insipid salt; it deserves to be trampled by the people (Matt. 5:13).
Well, then, let us today strengthen our faith and go further with the Inspiration question. It is an extraordinary course on which the enemies of the Bible have entered, for they say: "Oh, all respect for the writings of the prophets and apostles; this Scripture cannot be replaced by another. But there is a great difference: when they came forward to speak, then everything was in harmony with the truth, but when they set themselves to write, then errors crept in, and the dead letter can not profit us." You know that all the papists maintain this also, that not the Bible, but the traditions, are the ground of the church, for these traditions give the key to Scripture. Also the recent theologians make this distinction and say: "Scripture is not actually for the lay people, the proclamation is for them. Faith does not come from Scripture, but from proclamation (Predigt) as is written in Rom.10:17. But what else is proclamation (Predigt) than Scripture expressed with the mouth?
The modern theologians go still further, they even maintain: Scripture as the Word of God is not the means of grace which leads to faith; rather, the proclamation is the means of grace. Pastor von Nolke has, however, testified against these theologians and indeed against Prof. Volck at Dorpat: The statement [of Volck] that the Bible is not given to individuals but to the church, is not literally true, for the church always consists only of individuals. (These men regard Scripture precisely as an historical document, and this, they say, makes it so valuable, for we must still know something about the Christ on whom we should believe, and this we find authentically in Scripture.–But even a Turkish Muslim would say this.)
How can Volck say: "not to individuals"? His idea is: The church, that is we professors, who have to distinguish, what the essence of the church is. It is asked today: "Do you understand what you read?" The answer must be:" No, some one from Dorpat must first come." Volck says: "Many an individual Christian has been justified without the Bible, even if he did not know how to read, for the Christian faith does not come from Scripture, but from the proclamation, which is of course grounded in the Word." How, he continues, can Scripture be equally intended for individual persons; for why then would the teaching office, the position of the theorist, still be needed? Thus the theologians regard it as a distillation of scholarly studies. Luthardt asserts that to be a theologian it is not necessary first to be a Christian, for Scripture has nothing to do with theology, etc.
Thesis I.3.b. Therefore Scripture itself also speaks of the writings of the holy writers as utterances of preaching persons.
It is highly remarkable that Scripture is continually spoken of in Scripture as one would speak of persons. The Holy Spirit wants to teach that it is in every way equally valid whether a prophet leaves something written after him or whether I hear it with my ears. See Rom. 11:2; 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; Jas. 2:23; 1 Tim. 5:18; John 19:37; 7:38, 42 Rom. 9:27; Luke 16:29; Gal. 3:8.
Thesis I.4.a. Scripture itself sets the writings of the Old Testament equal with those of the New.
When we go to Scripture and consider all the strongest passages there for the inspiration of Holy Scripture, we must acknowledge that almost all deal with the Old Testament. Now come our opponents, saying: "Look, even if you were right, you could still only prove that the Old Testament is inspired, for Paul means the Old Testament, because at that time there was no collection of New Testament books, and Peter also means that when he says: We have a sure prophetic Word,‘ etc." But also for the New Testament proofs for inspiration are found. In Deut. 4:2 it is written:"You shall not add to what I command you." But how could it be that something nevertheless was added? See Luther on this passage.
In John 5:46-47 Jesus says: "If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" This stops anyone from saying: "I will accept the New Testament but not the Old Testament."
Thesis I.4.b. Likewise Scripture itself sets the apostles of the New Testament equal with the prophets in the Old.
Acts 26:22: "I [Paul] continue to this day and testify to both the small and the great, and say nothing but what the prophets and Moses have said should happen." I Thess. 2:13: "We also thank God without ceasing that you, when you received the divine Word preached by us, received it not as the word of men, but, as it truly is, the Word of God, which also works in you who believe." What kind of rascal would Paul have been, if he had been aware that he could have erred and therefore misled men? Eph. 2:19, 20: "You are no more strangers and foreigners, but citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets." Here the apostles are placed before the prophets, but even if we do not insist on that, still the foundation of the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. See also 2 Pet.3:2; Luke 10:16.
Lecture V (January 8, 1886)
The main reason why the recent would-be devout theologians reject the old inspiration doctrine is this: "If one goes to Scripture and reads it without prejudice and uses his reason, he receives quite a different impression than that all of it is inspired by God." The Leipzig theologian [Karl] Kahnis, for example, writes in his so-called Lutheran dogmatics: The untenability of the old orthodox Inspiration doctrine will jump out at any one who takes the trouble to form for himself a clear idea of it in particulars. Should one think that the apostle Paul, when he wrote that letter to Philemon touched with tender, gentle humor, only noted down what the Holy Ghost dictated to him? (See Baier’s Compendium Theologiae, Prolegomena, Chap. II, p.102).
Here is revealed to all the masses the sorry position which the newer theologians take, who assert that they are believing. Here they openly go to the Scriptures as the Rationalists do, with the light of reason, and with that they judge everything, and so there can be no other result than that they find much at which they are offended and then say with the original tempter: "Did God say that?" But what totally different counsel does the Lord gives us, if we are to become certain that the Holy Scriptures are inspired by God? He says in John7:17: "If any one wants to do the will of Him [who sent Me], he will perceive whether this teaching is from God." But what is the will of Him who sent Christ? None other than this: We should listen to Christ, we should believe Christ. See here: not doubt, not unfeeling impressions, not reason, but faith is the right way to come to certainty. To be sure, it seems very odd that the Lord gives this counsel. It sounds almost as if Christ were saying: If one wants to come to faith, one must believe, and if one wants to come to certainty, one must be certain. But it only seems so. Christ’s counsel is to be compared with that of a doctor, with whom a patient argues about medicine and who then says: "Dear friend, disputing will settle nothing here, but you must take it. Then you will certainly perceive the healing power of the medicine." O my friends, if only I could write in your hearts with living sentences, that would never be extinguished, how one can become certain of the divinity of Holy Scripture, of the divine, heavenly, illuminating light, of the divine, spiritual, life-giving fire, and of the heavenly renewing power of Holy Scripture. He who has had no experience of that, he can say forever: "I am certain and clear about it," but he is still unsteady. In contrast, if one can say, I perceive, as the Savior says, through Him I have experienced, that Holy Scripture, which calls itself God’s Word, is really and truly inspired"–he who can say this, the same stands fast, and the storms of doubt will never overthrow his faith in these last times of temptation. The first thing that is necessary is certainly this: What Holy Scripture says about itself. For if Scripture says that it is a human book, it would be foolishness to regard it as a divine book. Yes, even if Scripture says that half of its content is divine, half is human, we would stand before it as a book with which we would know nothing about how to begin. For if it said this, we would indeed be judges over it. In that case we would do better if we followed our reason, for that would still be ultimately the highest judge. But God be praised, Scripture does not leave us in doubt about this. We have already heard a different account of what it says about itself.
We come today to
Thesis I.5 Scripture itself expressly pronounces the Scriptures of the prophets to be God’s revelation of the mysteries of His will."
So it is written in Rom. 16:25-26: "revealed and made known through the writings of the prophets." Here it is called the revelation of the eternal mysteries. But now they don’t want to be informed of that any more-- for example, Prof. Volck at Dorpat. He speaks very disparagingly of Scripture. But we know why, for if Scripture is revelation, all of it is revelation. But if they concede that, they don’t have so much maneuvering room any more. These gentlemen can only use a Bible from which they themselves extract the essence, as theologians called to do so. But it is not only Volck who has this teaching, but all the more recent theologians. (See Luthardt’s Compendium der Theologie, pp. 259, 268). They say that the real means of grace is the preaching of the pastors, for if Scripture were the means of grace, then of course it must be the Word of God. Inspiration must always be something other than revelation. They speak of the Scriptures from a human standpoint (kat’ anthropon). Therefore they basically do not believe in any inspiration.
[Johann Christian Konrad von] Hofmann, the teacher of all theologians of Germany now living, wrote a dogmatics, which he called the "proof of Scripture" (Schriftbeweiss): That is said to be his greatest work, in which he wanted to bring everything together which he had researched for years. He dedicated this writing to [Theodor] Kliefoth, because he was a little afraid of him, fearing that he would charge him (Hoffmann) with false doctrine. But Kliefoth was not fooled by this flattery. He had hardly received the book before he wrote a forceful writing about it, which is really a masterpiece. It is found in Kliefoth’s journal of the year 1859 in Schwerin. This work contains, besides the critique of Hofmann’s writing, a general critique of the entire
modern theology. Hofmann says that the Spirit only influenced the natural life of the writers of the Old Testament, that He gave them the natural powers to compose the writings of the Old Testament, but did not influence their personal life. He refers to what he has said earlier of the operation of the Spirit. But there he says that everything natural is a work of the Spirit; even the roar of the wind attests the drawing near of the Spirit. He really speaks often as if [Abraham] Calov were speaking.– Kahnis speaks of inspiration; with Hofman the Spirit is the creative power in all things. He (Hofmann) calls the Spirit the divine universal concurrence; indeed, Hofmann says that everything that is contained in Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. But that is not the case, if one understands by "Spirit" what Hofman understands by it. Yes, the church does say that everything is inspired by the Spirit. According to Hofmann the Spirit is active only in what is superficial in Scripture. He can even say like Calov that even what is irregular in Scripture is the work of the Spirit. But this Hofmann does not say: that the Spirit worked even upon the thinking and will of the writers. According to Hofmann the writers of Holy Scripture are completely the authors of it. According to Hofmann the Spirit did everything which He has done also in the composition of other books.– With regard to revelation, see what Luther says.
Thesis I.6.a. Scripture pronounces itself to be the single and infallible norm in all questions of faith and life.
If Scripture says that it is the one, infallible norm in all questions of faith and life, then one cannot say that anything erroneous is contained in it, that if the rule is correct, the opposite also has to be correct. In Is. 8:19, 20 Scripture is declared to be the single source and truth, and whoever follows any other norm has a false touchstone, he will not have the light, he shall not arrive at the saving truth.
Jer. 1:7: "The Lord said to me: Do not say,’I am too young,’ but you shall go wherever I send you, and proclaim whatever I command you." If I admonish some one in this way to judge totally according to a book, I am declaring the book to be without error, the highest judge, the highest norm, the rule and standard.
Acts 26:22: "I have obtained God’s help and continue to this day, testifying to both great and small and saying no other things than what the prophets and Moses said would happen." If the Apostle wants to show thereby that he is a true apostle , that is, that he intends to say nothing other than Moses and the prophets have said, then I declare Scripture to be the single source of truth.
1 Cor. 15:3,4: "For I have delivered to you first of all what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." This verse contains the vindication of the Apostle Paul, that he rightly served according to the Scriptures: "If I had not taught according to the Scriptures, you could have said: Get out of here with your doctrine."– Even Christ defended Himself solely with the words of God [Matt. 4:4-7]. Yes, He could have said:"I say to you, Satan," but He said, "It is written." When the devil quoted a Bible passage, the Lord quoted another, to prove the opposite, and at the same time proved thereby that Scripture interprets itself. He says:"On the other hand, it is written." And when the devil is so brazen as to ask for worship. He quotes still another passage. This is also a proof against the modern theologians, that one must prove everything from Scripture alone.
Luke 24:46: "Thus it is written, and thus must Christ suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day." Because it stands written, it must happen. Therefore it was enough for the disciples and should be enough for everyone, except for a German theologian.
Luke 10:25-28: "And behold, a Scripture expert stood up, and tested Him and said: ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him: ‘What is written in the law? What do you read?’ He answered and said: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’ He said to him: ‘You have rightly answered; do this and you will live.’" The Lord does not begin to moralize and to philosophize. He wants instead to say: "You know what is decisive with us, namely, the Scriptures," and therefore He asks: "How is it written?"
Matt.22: 41-46: "When the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying:’What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said: ‘David’s.’ He said to them:’How then does David in the Spirit call him a Lord, where he says: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I place your enemies as a stool for your feet? If David, then, calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ And no one could answer Him a word." "In the Spirit" (en pneumati) means: by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, since he stood under the influence of the Spirit, because he was inspired by the Spirit. No one could answer Him a word, for no Hofmann was there.
Jer. 8:8: "How can you say: We know what is right, and have the Law of the Lord?" Acts 17:11: "These were more noble than the Thessalonians, for they very readily received the Word and daily examined the Scriptures to see whether it was so." Ps. 119:5: "Oh, that my life would keep your decrees with all ardor!"
2 Pet.1:19:"We have the prophetic word, all the more sure, and you do well that you pay attention to it, as to a light that shines in a dark place, till the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." This is a highly remarkable passage. In the preceding verse Peter has related how he and other apostles saw the Lord in His transfiguration, in order to testify by that to the glory of Christ. Why does he make this conclusion? "We have seen the glory of the Lord," he is saying,"and you can believe us as eminent witnesses." But "we have a sure prophetic Word," namely, the Scriptures, for our testimony. With heavenly appearances one might be deceived, but that is not the case with the Scriptures. Now, the modern theologians do make the claim that Scripture is the rule and norm of faith and life– but with reference to what they teach about it.
Lecture VI (January 15, 1886)
The joyfully believing, splendid testimony of all orthodox theologians of our evangelical Lutheran church in the 16th and 17th centuries are nowadays ascribed much less significance than they in fact had. That is to say, it is said: "These dear men lived in a time in which it was quite generally accepted that the Bible is God’s Word. The child already experienced it in his parental home; this teaching was, as it were, one with his mother’s milk; then he heard it again in the parish school and in the grammar schools; from all chancels and from all academic lecterns it was loudly proclaimed. At that time many important reasons were not even known, which now are maintained against the believers, if they hold the Bible to be God’s Word. So it is no surprise that these good people accepted what was passed down to them in good faith, without rigorous examination."
But this is a mistaken historical outlook. Those theologians were people well experienced in thought and comprehension, who would uncover a contradiction in a moment.
Secondly, they were not in the least inclined to accept everything that was handed down to them as true without examination, as we see very clearly in their battles against the Roman church with regard to its universal tradition, whose canon they never accepted, and in spite of the testimonies of the whole church expunged the Apocrypha. We know well enough how mere general tradition could not bind their conscience.
Finally, they were also well acquainted with the most important objections to divinity of Holy Scripture. Therefore it is especially foolish to say: "If those eminent men, who were the lights of the world in their time, had known what we now know, they would have recognized that their great biblical theories were untenable." It is not true, my friends! These men were not dimwits, but brilliant minds, who soon perceived that Holy Scripture could not be reconciled with their reason in hundreds of their teachings. They were very familiar with the history of human opinions in all times. They knew very well the objections against the divinity of Holy Scripture which were advanced and could be advanced. Whatever is now being advanced is nothing new, and whatever might be new is easily countered. But certainly those heathen philosophers and learned Jews advanced objections which required sagacity to refute. But there were those Protestants whom God had gifted with the greatest sagacity, who at once protested against everything, without exception, which was laid before them as divine and which had not been proved to be divine. Nevertheless, these men maintained and believed until their death, and died in the peace of God maintaining it, that the entire Scripture is inspired. And why? Solely because they had experienced the divinity of Holy Scripture in their hearts. They were not philosophers, they were not speculators, they were converted Christians who carried the light of the Holy Spirit in their hearts; they had perceived the witness of the Holy Spirit in the heart daily, if they were not under severe temptation. Woe to those, therefore, who know of this splendid, joyfully believing confession! This witness will accuse them on that Day, if they have despised them (the witnesses) and remained in unbelief. They themselves have to say that there were great men, great natural writers in all faculties, who were, as it were, the oracles of their time, and there were enough of them who believed in Holy Scripture. I mention only the great natural writers Newton and Keppler. But if there were only one of these scholars who was well up on all branches of knowledge and nevertheless believed in the divinity of Holy Scripture, then the statement is refuted that says that only narrow-mindedness can bring a person to believe in the divinity of Holy Scripture. Such men will be cited one day as witnesses against those rascals who say: "Whoever is as wise as we are, cannot believe it," while they ought to say: "Whoever is as dumb as we are, cannot believe it."
As important as these witnesses are, just as important is the witness which the prophets and apostles have borne. We have already heard some of these testimonies and come today to
Thesis I.6.b Scripture pronounces itself to be the norm to which nothing is to be added and from which nothing is to be taken away.
If Scripture says this about itself, then I indeed do not know how it would be possible there could be errors in it. For if I dare not take anything away from it, there can be no error in it, for error in it would need to be taken away. And Scripture says this with clear words at the portal and at the close of Scripture. Moses has said it twice (Deut. 4:5; 12:32), which was astonishing to Luther. "You shall add nothing to what I command you, and you shall take nothing away from it, that you may keep the commands of the Lord your God , which I command you" (Deut. 4:5). If there were anything false in Scripture, it would have to be taken away. I do not endorse what some say: "what is meant here is simply the commandments; from them nothing should be taken away." Certainly nothing should be taken away from them; but the word is here which is repeated in Greek with the term entolai" and which is used of all Scriptures which the holy writers have written.
"Whatever I command you, you shall keep, that you should do it. You shall not add anything to it, or take anything away from it" (Deut. 12:32). "I testify to every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If any one adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book. And if any one takes away from the words of the prophecy in this book, God shall take away his share from the tree of life and from the holy city written about in this book" (Rev. 22:18-19). Are these not thunderbolts against them who are not ashamed to say: "Scripture also has its errors, which must be separated from it; one must think critically about what belongs to the holy revelation." It would be better if they were interpreting Ovid, than that they should speak this way about Scripture, the Book of all Books. These warnings are, as it were, a cherub who stands at the entrance of Paradise, at the beginning and end of Scripture.
Therefore, my friends, you must either believe the Scriptures or reject them; there is no third option. And if you have experienced the power which they have, you will certainly choose the first option. For it is impossible that a Word, which enlightens me, which draws me from all the wiles of my heart, which renews me so that I no longer love sin, but my God, which makes me hate sin, and which makes me cheerful, even in connection with the thought that I must die [should not be what it says it is]. If I experience all this, it does not follow merely from that, that the entire Bible is God’s Word, but it follows that the entire Bible, if it says that it is God’s Word, also really is God’s Word, since it has such an effect. The moderns make a shameful perversion of this. They say:"We can know whether the whole Bible is God’s Word. A preacher has the same result when he preaches God’s Word purely and sincerely." But such a preacher will not say of himself: "I am sent by God, everything I say is inspired in me by God," for no one would listen to him any longer. But the Bible does say this of itself. And it would be a book of lies– it is dreadful to have to say something like this– if it never had the witness of the Spirit as a consequence. Matt. 5:17-19: "Do not think that I have come to annul the law and the prophets. I have not come to annul, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter, nor a tittle, shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever therefore annuls one of the least of these commandments and so teaches people will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever does and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven." The smallest letter will not pass away, neither a jot nor a tittle (little hook). With that He wants to say:"The smallest letter will not pass away, not even half a letter. "From the Law"means "from the Old Testament", since He is citing the Psalm [102: 25-26]. A Christian should not afraid, when he hears this saying, to shrink back from a concept such as the moderns have of the Scriptures. The Lord denies salvation to the one who takes away from or adds to it; yes, he is said to be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. That is truly a fiery angel at the gate of Scripture. Yes, there has been One who taught and believed the strictest doctrine of inspiration; this was Christ, our Lord and Savior. Take Him for your example, for we are now living in a time full of danger. Ah, one sees, Satan is making his final efforts to take away from Christians their full treasure, for he does not have much time. See John 10:30-36. There Christ says: "Is it not written in your law: ‘I have said: You are gods’?" He is thinking of Ps. 82:6: "You are gods." In His discussion we find the Greek word: luthenai, meaning "be annulled." Note well these great words of the Lord: "Scripture cannot be broken (luthenai)." But in addition He points out: "You yourselves will grant this. Scripture cannot be contradicted." Luther makes the same point over against the papists in the commentary on the Psalms, where he in the same way calls to them:"Scripture cannot be broken." The papists also believe in the Scripture, and therefore he says also to them: "You all grant this." But nowadays there is inability to say this. If anyone now teaches as the letter reads, the modern theologian says: " But Scripture can be broken. Scripture has also its human side. The apostles have not rightly understood Christ and least of all the Old Testament."(This is actually a place for a proof of the communication of attributes.)
Acts 24:14: "I worship the God of my fathers. I believe all that is written in the Law and the Prophets." The fact that the apostle takes the Law and the Prophets together shows that he means not only the legal content of the Old Testament, but the entire Old Testament.
Prov. 30:5,6:"All the words of God are purified; He is a shield to those who trust in Him. Add nothing to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar." Nothing impure is found in the Scriptures, Solomon says here, for it is purified. They are like gold and silver, which one puts in a furnace and smelts until all the dross is out. The moderns, however, assert the opposite, for they indeed find errors and unbelief in them.
Ps. 12:6:"The Scriptures are pure, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, refined seven times." Scripture is spiritual gold and silver, which have been deliberately refined until not only the dross but even the last tinsel is separated out. When Christians hear this, their hearts leap for joy; but if you hear that such dross is also in Scripture, you will be troubled and sad.
Thesis I.7.a. Scripture itself declares that no prophecy or writing in it has been brought forth by the will of man.
These are the direct words of Scripture itself: "No prophecy in Scripture arose by some one’s own explanation. For prophecy was never brought forth by the will of men," 2 Pet. 1:20. It actually says here: "prophecy of Scripture." But what is prophecy? Obviously it is nothing else than the revelation of the divine will through immediate inspiration. A prophet is one who communicates what God has immediately revealed to him. A prophet is an interpreter of God, and what he preaches is his prophecy (propheteia). This word cannot mean "explanation," for then the passage would be saying: "No explanation of Scripture comes about by someone’s own explanation." But it means: "prophecy." It does not come about by one’s own explanation: one cannot explain it with his reason. Private conviction is worth nothing to me, unless you prove to me that the words of the passage can mean nothing else, or you prove the meaning of the passage by reference to a parallel to the passage. Propheteia graphes means "prophetic Scripture." This meaning also the moderns concede. Therefore no such prophetic Scripture is brought forth by human will. But let us compare the teaching of the moderns with this. They always insist on the human side of Scripture, which it indeed also has, since it is God’s Word recorded by certain human beings. But this is not what the moderns intend to say. According to them the holy writers are efficient causes. One should not represent the apostles and prophets as if they wrote in a certain ecstasy, so that they had not intended to write, but they were forced to write. But we also do not say this. The thinking and willing of the apostles were active in the writing. But this is also not the point. What they want is that one should concede that the prophets and apostles reflected on what they wrote and how they would write. They are said to have been not merely instruments of God but authors. But that is refuted by our passage: "For men of God spoke, driven by the Holy Spirit." This is a characteristic of prophecy (propheteia).
Luthardt says: Besides the human side, which was previously recognized and is now validated, pheromenoi in our passage attests that the will of the holy writers was seized and they spoke (elalesan), that they also made use of their understanding. There were also heretics in the ancient church who taught that the prophets always wrote in ecstasy, as was said to be the case with the oracles of the heathen. These men wrote in frenzy, so that it was called a divine frenzy. So also the oracles of the heathen. But the ancient church rejected this. The apostles also had raptures, but they never wrote in them. Paul is an example, but he thereby heard such words as he could not at all express.
Thesis I.7.b. Scripture itself declares that the whole Scripture, and therefore all the books which it contains, are inspired by God.
2Tim. 3:16: "All Scripture, inspired by God, is useful for doctrine, for reproof, or
correction, for training in righteousness." Everyone grants that Luther here did not give a complete word for word translation. He left out kai (and). Why? No one can say. Probably he overlooked it.
Lecture VIII (January 29, 1886)
Theodore Parker, the radical Unitarian who died in 1860, is usually called the American Strauss, and not inaccurately. For he was a Strauss, a miserable mocker of all of Christianity. But Parker did not hold, like Strauss, that the life of Christ was a myth, a saga, an invention. He himself wrote: " to invent a Jew, one must be a Jew oneself; and no man could fabricate Christ; he would have to be Christ himself." That is a completely rational judgment. But this logic has its application to the entire Holy Scriptures. Consider: the writers wrote in a course of more than one and a half thousand years, and yet not only does its doctrine have a thorough conformity, but only when all its writings are taken together do they form a complete whole. Furthermore, most of the Biblical writers, namely the apostles, were quite uneducated people. Thus it is related to us in Acts 4:13, when Peter had made that powerful speech before the Sanhedrin, that "they were astonished, for they realized that they were uneducated and ignorant people." How were these men able, if they had not been inspired by God, to write down such a teaching, which, I will only say, has been the object of investigation and astonishment ever since the time of its origin, an object of investigation and astonishment even of the educated world? How would it be possible, if it were not inspired, to reveal a doctrine which is unappealing to the flesh and nevertheless did not need, like the teaching of Muhammed, to be introduced with fire and sword, which changed the whole world, and has remained in spite of all attack and persecution until this hour? How would it be possible, if Holy Scripture were not inspired, that the greatest enemy which the church had in apostolic times, a Saul, was converted and after a few days proclaimed the Christian teaching in all its fullness, in all its Scriptures in all the world, and became the greatest herald of it until his death?
If the holy writers had not stood under divine influence, it would be a much more inexplicable miracle than the miracles of Moses, Christ, and the apostles, for those miracles we can explain. He who is able to do all things has done them. But if we say: "It is no miracle, but they wrote it themselves," how will we explain that? Reason itself must admit, even though it is embarrassed to do so, that no other explanation is possible than they wrote breathed upon by the Holy Spirit. Therefore let us be all the more eager to hear the witnesses which the holy writers themselves bear about their writings.
We have already been persuaded that according to a precise translation 2 Tim.3:16 has to mean: All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable, etc. "Inspired" (theopneustos) does not belong to the subject of the sentence, so one would have to say: "the inspired Scripture." but it is a part of the predicate, for this is said of Scripture, without using the[implied] copula esti (is). There are few interpreters who deny this. They could indeed adopt the Luther Bible translation and say: "According to this the Inspiration doctrine cannot be proved, for I can think of the thing this way: ‘If they are inspired, etc.’" But that won’t do. The apostle has previously said: "Since you have known the Holy Scriptures from childhood, etc." [v. 15]. Now, it would be a very odd continuation if v.16 meant: "It is also useful for doctrine,: for he has already said this previously. If Scripture makes wise for salvation [v. 15], he does not still need to say [in v. 16]: it is also useful for salvation. Everyone can see that it should have been translated: "All Scripture is inspired by God." [Johann] Bengel says: "‘Inspired by God’ is not a part of the subject, for what the apostle means is plain, but it is part of the predicate. And because it is inspired by God, it is also useful for doctrine, etc. Indeed, kai [and] would have no meaning if theopneustos [inspired] were a part of the subject."
Also Professor [Hermann] Cremer in Greifswalden, Pomerania, grants this, but with this distinction, that he says that the translation should be "God-breathing," not "inspired (breathed) by God." The philologists do not allow this, but the theologians do not understand them. But they do not know what they are doing. In all the lexicographers we find this meaning recognized. They appeal to Phocilides, Plutarch, and others. – Cremer published his Biblisch-Theologisches Wörterbuch der neutestamentlichen Gräcität. He treats the words according to their context in Scripture. The book has become very renowned and has already seen its fourth edition. In spite of the fact that he has the motto: "And Scripture cannot be broken," he is a true modern theologian.
(Dr.Walther read aloud from Cremer’s entry on theopneustos, and following are his remarks and refutations of Cremer’s statements.)
According to Cremer theopneustos means "endowed with God’s Spirit," "breathing the divine Spirit," but not "inspired by God." He does not want to understand the word as passive but as active. Plutarch, who also uses this word, refers to a " dream inspired by God," but not to a "dream which breathes God." Plutarch distinguishes this from natural dreams. Therefore Plutarch confirms the Biblical meaning of theopneustos. But what does Cremer do? He attributes this to the copyist, through whose error this word came in. But is this not a common usage? Yes, if Cremer had had variant manuscripts with different readings, then he could perhaps say that the word was interpolated.
What also the Vulgate expresses by divinus inspirata ("inspired by God") [in 2 Tim 3:16], that is what also Plutarch obviously intends to express here. But whoever practises criticism as Cremer does, should not be read. To be sure, Cremer does not belong among the unbelieving theologians, but among the modern believers, and whatever does not suit these gentlemen in their theories, they throw overboard According to them one must first form a picture of the whole, and whatever does not fit in there, that must be understood otherwise than it in reality reads.– Tertullian, whose translation of this word is not to be found, must have translated it according to Bengel’s view, as we do.– It would be a shameful presumption if we would believe as Cremer and Wittelsbach do. No, we thank God that Plutarch used theopneustos in the sense he did. Cremer also says nothing about the word physikos (natural) in Plutarch, which is placed in contrast to theopneustos. It is an argument against Cremer that he says that theopneustos has a similar meaning to theopemtos. And nevertheless the latter word is to be understood as passive. But the good man probably does not know that theopemtos has a passive meaning, for it cannot truly mean: "God-sending," but rather "sent by God." – Phocilides also writes: "The word of wisdom inspired by God." Of course, Cremer does not want this to enlighten him; therefore he greatly prefers to pass quickly over it. But he can delete everything in this way. He thinks, of course, that the Missourian jackasses will not notice this! Phocilides was probably a Christian of the first centuries. But all the same, if he also wrote a literary piece with such a usage, this shows how the early Christians understood theopneustos.
(Dr. Walther read out yet more, in which Cremer conceded that the Biblical meaning of the word is indeed to be found in Greek writers. Of course, this has no value for him, as a modern theologian. He creates the meaning out of the whole of Scripture, from the picture that he has made for himself.)
The word theopneustos also has analogies in secular Hellenistic Greek, some of which are theopheistos (stricken by God), theokletos (called by God), theoktistos (created by God). These words I cannot change in the designation of their meaning!–Cremer thinks that if his opinion is right, then the Vulgate translation is wrong. But does the good man think that because of his opinion we must let the sedes doctrinae be annihilated for us? He cannot squeeze something out of any book that we are obliged to take as gospel!
Luthardt, who is somewhat political and seems to be shrewder, is completely silent about this passage. What is more, he says in the locus on Inspiration in his dogmatics book: "You need not be surprised that I do not quote any passages for the doctrine of Inspiration, for Inspiration is based on the whole of Scripture." And if a poor farmer comes and opposes Scripture passages to their false doctrines, they say: "You must let the theologians decide, who have investigated the whole of Scripture." Thus these gentlemen do like the devil, who when the Lord Christ brought up Bible passages against him, failed. Cremer even concedes in a remarkable way that the Peshitta translates theopneustos just as the Vulgate does. That is such a powerful proof that one has to be amazed that he has mentioned it. This translation is from the second century. But there are said to have been translations of the Bible already toward the end of the first century. The Ethiopian Bible translation rendered the word in the same way as the Vulgate. The Greek didaktos ("taught") is passive, and likewise theodidaktos ("taught by God") [in 1Thess. 4:9], which also has an analogy to theopneustos). John 6:45 (which refers to Jer. 31) uses the word theodidaktos, which refers to one who is taught by God. My friends, you may in spite of everything understand theopneustos as active. You may continually attack this rock, but you will see that you cannot smash it, but you will attack it until you crack your skull.– Cremer says that it is to be expected that theopneustos should be understood actively. It is to be expected in Greifswalden, because it suits his theory. These are miserable, pitiable grounds which they bring to rob us of our treasure.
Thesis I.7.c. Scripture itself declares that the holy writers have spoken, driven by the Holy Spirit.
These words are taken from 2 Pet. 1:21 The present participle pheromenoi ("driven") must not mean that they were first driven by the Spirit, but that while they spoke they were driven, or rather overcome; they must speak thus, they must write thus.–Neither Cremer nor Luthardt mentions this passage. The latter naturally does not dare to do, for he is a Hofmannite, who says: First you work out your theory and then make it equal with Scripture.
We see that the modern theologians must admit the meaning which we give to theopneustos; indeed, Cremer quotes proofs for it. But in spite of that they do not hesitate to say that it must be conceived otherwise, because it does not appear to suit their opinion. We thank them!
Lecture VIII (January 1886)
A characteristic of most of the writers of our time, my friends, is this, among others: that more consideration is given to style than to substance; that it matters more to them to clothe their thoughts beautifully in words, than that their thoughts, their expositions contain irrefutable truths. One thinks before all else of how to reveal, by his manner of presentation, what kind of profoundly learned man he is; another, of how to show that he possesses an extraordinary intellect and a great genius. One takes pains with the style of stateliness, another with the style of religious mood, another with the style of poetic animation and practical outlook, another, again, with the style of wittiness, of humor, of naivete, and the like, if only the special style really corresponds to his natural characteristics, like, for example, the style of Luther, and the so-called classical writers of all languages. And the world soon notices whether one book has special worth above others. It can happen that a book indeed comes into the world but has no value, and so it bursts like a bubble and leaves a stench behind. But when an attentive reader notices that a style is only an imitation, a mimicking, something ostentatious, it disgusts him, for it makes an impression on him of sham, of pretense. To be sure, when gymnasium students judge the worth of a book by the glossiness of its style, that is nothing remarkable, for such boys have not yet considered the content of the thought, while they are being trained to bring their few little thoughts into beautiful phrases. But it is much more tragic when the reader, in respect to the books which he reads, pays more attention to the "how" than to the "what," to the style than to the thoughts of the content. But that is the trend of our time. The saddest consequence of this is the low regard for the Holy Scripture just because of its style. To be sure, Holy Scripture contains portions which in respect to rhetoric and poetry are ahead of all others; I will only remind you of the beginning of Holy Scripture, of which the heathen philosopher Longinus says that it is the highest example of sublime presentation. I remind you of Psalms 119 and 104; of many portions of many prophecies of the prophets, especially Isaiah; of the first half of John’s Gospel; of that hymn of love by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. But on the whole, we Christians gladly concede that there is no book of special significance which has so simple and unadorned a style as Holy Scripture. But that should be, that must be, that cannot be otherwise, for Holy Scripture is the book of all men and therefore had to be so written that the unlearned and the learned, the child and the mature or elder man could understand it, at least as much as is necessary for him. Far from the simplicity of the Biblical style making the divinity of its origin doubtful, this simplicity rather confirms its heavenly origin, for we can only attribute the incomparably great force, the transforming power, not to the art of its writers, but to the One who inspired this book from heaven in the holy writers. Mark it well, my friends! Let us continue, then, and hear further that Scripture says about its dignity.
I might say one thing before we go further. What Holy Scripture says about itself is well known to all. We even read it daily and hear it on Sunday from the chancel. And so this thought can easily gain a footing: "One speaks of Scripture, I’m afraid, in a completely routine way." To avoid getting such a routine and frivolous feeling for it, one must always reflect: "What would you say, if this claim were made for any other book, e.g., the works of Luther? What would you say if I declared that the Holy Spirit spoke through Athanasius or Augustine? Or if I would read something to you even out of the Symbolical Books and declare: Thus says the Lord?" You would think: "That is an obvious idolatry and blasphemy." But you must proceed in such a way with Scripture. You must really consider that the statements which it makes about itself are of great significance and not to be neglected. You must be correctly aware of them and be convinced of their importance. The importance is great.
2 Pet. 1:2. "The holy men of God spoke, driven (pheromenoi) by the Holy Spirit." Therefore they spoke while they were driven by the Holy Spirit, and not after they were driven by the Holy Spirit, in such a way as to give them a mere impulse to write. There is also a mighty impetus expressed in this pheromenoi.
Thesis I.7.d. Scripture itself declares that it was not so much the holy writers who spoke, as God, specifically the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ, who spoke through them.
Here I must remind you that the statement: "Thus says the Lord " occurs countless times in the Scriptures. All the prophets who begin their writings with it would have been the greatest blasphemers of God and deceivers, if they had spoken thus and it were not true. Therefore I must think of what comes out of the mouth of this or that writer as spoken by the Lord Himself.– But we want to take up the passages themselves, even if only a few, though a whole sheet of such verses could be quoted.
Heb. 1:1: "In times past God many times and in many ways spoke to the fathers through the prophets." The Person who speaks is God, and the instruments by which He spoke, according to this passage, were the prophets.
Matt. 10:20 "For it is not you that speak" (therefore also:" not you that write," for that is one and the same thing). So it is not correct when it is said that Paul is the author of this letter, Matthew is the author of the Gospel. "For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you."
1 Pet. 1:11: "They [the prophets] inquired which person or time the Spirit of Christ was indicating, who was in them and testified beforehand the sufferings which would come upon Christ, and the glories thereafter." It was not actually the prophets who testified to it, but the Spirit of Christ who was in them.
2 Cor. 13:3: "Who speaks in me." He says not merely: "Who always moves me inwardly," but: "Who speaks in me," and that is more. For by that it is indicated not only that He arouses thoughts in me, but that He speaks in me. What I now write, that Christ has spoken in me.
Zech. 7:12:"They made their hearts hard like a diamond, lest they should hear the Law and words which the Lord of Hosts sent in His Spirit through the earlier prophets." Here Zechariah says about the prophets before his time that the Lord of Hosts spoke through them and indeed in His Spirit, i.e., He has not spoken to them in the way that He did, for example, to Moses and Abraham, but in His Spirit. The Holy Spirit produced thoughts, and if I have thoughts, then I also always have words. Whoever actually thinks, he always thinks with words. Therefore it is also a foolish babble when it is said that the Holy Spirit inspired the content, the thoughts, in the holy writers, but the words they had to find themselves. Only through words does thought get its boundaries.
Acts 1:16:"Men and brethren, The Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit predicted through the mouth of David concerning Judas." There it is said that the Holy Spirit said through the mouth of David what was prophesied of Judas in Ps. 41:10.
" Paul had spoken one statement:’ Rightly did the Holy Spirit say through the prophet Isaiah’" (Acts 28:25). Paul says that the Holy Spirit said it. Paul’s "one statement" here is his quotation, which appears in what follows in the text, of what was said "through the prophet Isaiah." He therefore attributes the prophecy to the Holy Spirit. Now, if we had only Luther’s German translation, it could lead us to a strange thought, for we find the word "wohl" there. This could lead us to the thought that in this place this word means no more than "perhaps." But "wohl" here is the translation for the Greek kalos, which means "quite right," in contrast to dichon" ("in doubt").
Heb. 3:7-8:"Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as happened when they provoked Me, in the day of temptation in the wilderness." This passage quotes from Ps. 95. It is the first instance of something continually said in the letter to the Hebrews: "The Holy Spirit says." But it is not merely a characteristic of the Hebrews letter, but of the entire Holy Scriptures.
Matt. 22:43, 44: "He said to them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him "Lord," when he says, "The Lord said unto my Lord’"? What does "in the Spirit" (en pneumati) mean? Nothing else than this: If David had spoken it as a private individual, one could not accord so much importance to it. But he said it "in the Spirit"– under the impetus of the Holy Spirit, and therefore it must be true.
Luke 10:16: "He who hears you, hears Me, and he who despises you, despises Me." The Word was totally given to the disciples and proclaimed as the Word of the Lord.
2 Sam. 23:2: "The Spirit of the Lord has spoken through me." What a wretched fanatic David must have been, an atrocious deceiver and blasphemer of God, if his Psalms had been his own invention.
Thesis I.8.a. Scripture itself declares that the Holy Spirit gave the holy writers not only what, but also how they should speak.
Scripture declares that the Holy Spirit gave the holy writers not only what but also how they should speak. Thus we read, to wit, "And when they bring you into their synagogues and before the rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at the time what you should say," Luke 12:11-12. They should have no anxiety, for it would be given them when the time came; not only what they should speak and answer, but also how, not only the thoughts, but also the way of expressing them, comes from the Holy Spirit.
Here many now say: Yes, the Holy Spirit will teach them if they are placed before kings. See Matt. 10:19-20 (repeated in Luke 12:11, 12; 21: 14,15). What is here said of speaking is in turn understood, with the greatest fitness, of writing. The written word of the apostles must have an even greater certainty, because it is said to be the perpetual norm of the whole church (perpetua norma totius ecclesiae). As the Holy Spirit inspired in the apostles what they should speak, He has still much more inspired in them what they should write, for the written letter remains (littera scripta manet). It would be strange if the Lord had said to the apostles: "Only when you are brought before kings do I want to give you the how and what to say; but when you preach God’s Word, then you must exert yourselves, so that you preach nothing false." No, that won’t do. Let us compare with this John 16:12-13. Here the Lord not only gave the promise: " Do not be concerned how and what you should say before kings," but also: "You need have no concern with respect to the presentation of doctrine, which you will deliver in time to come." For without doubt the important question in their ears was this: "How should we rightly deliver the doctrine of the Lord, after He has died?" They had so often had false notions and were rebuked for them, certainly Peter, who had revealed his opinion when the Lord spoke of His coming suffering, and had received the answer: "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (Matt. 16:23). The disciples well knew how important this is and recognized their incompetence. But the Lord then spoke our passage in Luke 12:11, 12.
Thesis I.8.b. Scripture itself declares that the Holy Spirit taught the holy writers with what words they should speak.
It is almost inexplicable that there are so many today who say: "O yes, the content was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but not the words!" It is, first of all, nonsense to assert this, because I can rightly grasp a thought communicated to me by another only if he has clothed it in definite words. This is therefore asserting what is physically impossible. Then, too, the apostles even say that the words, even the words, were given to them by inspiration. 1 Cor. 2:12, 13:"This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit." Here our assertion in I.8.b. is clearly and distinctly stated. On Judgment Day these words will accuse all those who have robbed Holy Scripture of the privilege of speaking with words which the Holy Spirit teaches. One notices it even in the modern theologians. For even they see this and must have admitted that here it is quite distinctly said that the Holy Spirit taught the apostles which words they should use to speak. But they nevertheless deal with it cunningly to evade the point, through empty phrases which prove nothing. And it is precisely this by which they incur such great accountability. For it is no small matter to take away from the poor Christian the support to which he has clung and on which he has leaned up to now and to say: "The Bible is a good book, to be sure, but one must separate what is false from what is correct." It is no small matter, when a poor Christian perhaps lies on his deathbed and has to render an account before God, to make him uncertain of what has hitherto been his comfort and to draw him into doubt whether the apostles expressed with the right words what the Holy Spirit wanted to say.
Gal. 3:16: "Now, the promise was made to Abraham and his seed. He does not say: ‘by the seeds,’ as by many, but as by one: ‘by your seed,’ which is Christ." From this we see that the apostle advocated the very strictest doctrine of Inspiration, for he appealed not only to one word of the Old Testament, but even to the fact that this word is not used in the plural, but in the singular; he specifies number and case and proves that the words which were spoken to Abraham were aimed at Christ. But this is not the place to refute the charge of the opponents that Paul does not give any rigorous proof in regard to "seed" (zera); that belongs in Exegesis.
Thesis I.8.c. Scripture itself declares that the Spirit spoke through the holy men’s mouths or put the words in their mouths.
We must therefore say with Scripture: when Isaiah writes, God writes; when Isaiah speaks, God speaks; when the apostle opens his mouth, God opens His mouth (that is to say, by interpretation). "The Spirit of the Lord has spoken by me, and His Word is on my tongue," 2 Sam. 23:2.
Lecture IX (February 12, 1886)
A major interest of the modern theologians, my friends, is openly to remove everything at which today’s world, which regards itself as enlightened, takes offense and which prevents it from regarding the teaching of Scripture as divine. This is, in and of itself, not completely reprehensible. Indeed, we can only praise the modern theologians for this in this time of unbelief and cultivation of doubt. The Lord Himself and the holy apostles from time to time applied rational proofs against certain attacks on revealed doctrine. When the Lord one day presented the teaching that man can merit nothing at all before God by his work, He added this, to set aside all errors about it: ""Does a master thank his servant when he has done what he was told to do?" [Luke 17:9] He adds: "I think not. So you also, when you have done all, say: ‘We are unworthy servants, we have done what was our duty to do.’" Thus the Lord takes a relationship from the daily life and intercourse of men and with that actually shows by reason that it is foolish to take offense at the statement that no man can merit anything before God by work. Furthermore, when the Apostle disputes in 1 Cor. 15 with those who reject the resurrection of the dead as something impossible, he appeals to them: "You fool, what you sow does not become alive unless it die." Obviously a proof from physics and natural history. He declares by this: "You are not even following your reason, for your reason will and can testify to you that something dead can become alive again." If the modern theologians now ramble in the footsteps of the Lord and the apostles, who wants to find fault with them? We must cheer them on in this! But alas! They go too far: where there is a teaching that they cannot harmonize in any way with the premises of reason and human experience, they alter the teaching and take away what is offensive to man and dissolve the mystery. There can be nothing more reprehensible than this. The apostles did the exact opposite. They only seldom used proofs of reason, but ordinarily they only said: "Thus says the Lord,"and with that called upon all readers and hearers to be silent. When the Lord presents the doctrine of rebirth to Nicodemus and says to him:"Truly, truly, I say to you," and Nicodemus replies according to his doubting reason: "Can a man also be born when he is old?"[John 3:3,4], what does the Lord do? Does He seek to explain this mysterious teaching from reason or to make it to some degree acceptable to reason? Nothing of the kind, but He repeats this teaching with strengthened significance. Nicodemus has to be silent and goes away stung that he has not believed Him of whom he himself says that He is a teacher come from God.
Also the apostle Paul says expressly of his teaching: "We take all reason captive under the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). And he appeals to his beloved Corinthians: "My word and my preaching was not in reasonable speeches of human wisdom, speeches rationally convincing, but in the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not stand on human wisdom but on the power of God "(1 Cor. 2:4-5). Therefore woe to those who accept the teaching of Holy Scripture as divine only when it can be justified before the bar of their blind reason; such a person will gradually throw all the main teachings of Scripture overboard as worthless ballast. Unfortunately, we see that the modern theologians have already made a beginning of doing that. There is almost no single important doctrine which might not be pruned or stretched by them, in order to adjust it to reason or modern taste. No, my friends, after we have experienced in our hearts that Holy Scripture is a power of God in which we believe, then this must be a principle for us: It is written. And with that everything is settled, even if we do not know how to answer everywhere and about everything. That is true also of the doctrine of Inspiration.
2 Sam. 23:2: "The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His Word is on my tongue." It is indeed marvelous that Scripture says:"through the mouth of the apostles and prophets." He does not say that He has used their spirit as an instrument and enlightened it, so that it wrote down these divine thoughts as it grasped them– no, by the mouth! But what does God do by the mouth? He speaks words. All the passages which say that the Holy Spirit spoke by the mouth are irrefutable testimonies for verbal inspiration. And that is why the controversy now deals with the question whether even the words were inspired.
In 2 Sam. 23:2 Samuel says: "The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His Word came through my tongue." Is it not dreadful now, when it is said: "No, the Holy Spirit has indeed inspired the thoughts in the writers, but not the words"? If this is true, then there is no more self-inflating book in the whole world than the Bible. If a man would assert this about himself, he would be despised as a blasphemer. In contrast, if one says: "I have preached the pure Word of God," we can still say this, even if we are not immediately enlightened. Downright rationalists concede that Holy Scripture contains truths. The question is rather whether the Word is "dictated." Now we dare not present our view as if we thought that the Holy Spirit sat down beside the holy writers and spoke to them as to secretaries. With analogies one must always look at the point of comparison (tertium comparationis), for every simile limps (omne simile claudicat). In all comparisons, also those contained in the Word of God, we cannot stand still and say: "This means that," but we must go on to say: "The thing itself in this figure of speech is, so to speak, set in a framework; what is the point of comparison?"
Jer. 1:9: "Behold, I put My words in your mouth." With that He indicates: "Whatever you will speak in your office from now on, that is My speech, your words are My words." Otherwise we would have to say that these are hyperboles. But we would have to call some one making such hyperboles about himself a boaster. But this is no rhetoric, but a deceptive self-delusion. God preserve us from making this out of the Word of God! Rather let it be said that we will one
day come to know in heaven what a work of divine wisdom this book is, and all unbelievers will cry out with "Oh" and "Woe" for themselves, that they have despised it.
Luke 1:70: "As He has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets." It is dreadful when it is said: "Yes, it is written there, but the word must not be pressed." This is the Lutheran doctrine of inspiration. Our doctrine is only the reflection of what is said with clear words in the Holy Scriptures.
Acts 3:21: "[Jesus Christ] whom heaven had to receive until the time when everything will be restored, as God said by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."
Acts 1:16: "Men and brethren, This scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit predicted by the mouth of David concerning Judas." There he quotes a passage from the Psalms.
Acts 2:4. "And they were full of the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, according to what the Spirit gave them to express." The Spirit not only gave them the thoughts which they now speak, but also that which they express. A very important passage!
1 Kings 22:14: "And Micaiah said, ‘As the Lord lives, I will speak what the Lord says to me."
Thesis I.8.d. Scripture itself declares that the holy men’s tongues were the pen of a skillful writer.
Ps. 45:1: "My tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." 2 Sam. 23:1-2 mentions the writer: "These are the last words of David. . .The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me, and His Word is on my tongue." "The tongue of David is called the pen of a skillful writer, who was a writer of none other than the Holy Spirit, as Basil teaches in his exposition of this Psalm." This is an extraordinarily important witness. The modern theologians indeed ridicule this and say: "The prophets are said to have been like God’s secretaries or amanuenses." Yes, they go still further.– One must imagine to oneself that the prophets and apostles were like an organ works, but this organ works had only one head, which made all these pipes sound forth. One pipe was dull, to be sure, another sharp, one sounding like this, another like that . Thus one can explain, say the old dogmaticians, that the Holy Spirit spoke sometimes in a higher style, sometimes in a lower style. Isaiah, for example, undoubtedly was the one who wrote most beautifully. He was of royal blood and a finely cultured man. Amos was a cowherd, who wrote very roughly. The moderns say: "Ah, it is a pity when such clever people come with such childish stuff." But I think that they say that with a bad conscience. They say: "There it can be seen that they had a completely mechanical conception."– When the apostles say that God has dictated to them, it does not mean that He sat down beside them and "dictated," but they only intended to say that they are not themselves the authors and composers, but it is God. Now the moderns like to call the apostles secretaries, etc., for one is taught that the apostles fell senseless in a fit and wrote in that; the devil has such prophets. The apostle did rightly say one time that he was raptured into the third heaven, but what he had heard there was too sublime, too high, for him to be able to express. What he should say, that he wrote down in the 13 letters. The moderns would have to reject not only the Scriptures, but even all significant works of human conception, when they say: "Oh, yes, there they come with trivialities from everyday life!" But that is the one thing by which we can make it clear to ourselves, for we know the "What" precisely, but the "How" will only become truly clear to us in eternal life.
What Does the Ancient Church after the Time of the ApostlesSay about the Inspiration of Holy Scripture?
From C. F. W. Walther’s Evening Lectures (1885-1886)
Lecture IX (February 12, 1886)
Here we come first, of course, to the apostolic fathers, for they were the first church writers. We understand the apostolic fathers to be those who themselves received the oral instruction of the apostles: Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp. Hermas and Papias are not reckoned among them by all. "Hermas" indeed appears in the book of Acts, but that was another Hermas. This one is said to have lived from 139 to 154, so that it does not appear to be humanly possible that he was a disciple of the apostle John. He claimed that his book, entitled Shepherd of the Gospel, was a revelation. I regard this book to be quite worthless, in spite of the fact that the Christians in the second century were fond of reading it, probably as Christians today are fond of reading Christian novels. He says nothing against, but also nothing in defense of Inspiration. The same is true of Papias. He was a dear, pious man, and even died as a martyr, but he himself did nothing for our purpose here. Since he only recorded what he heard, he finally came to the position of Chiliasm. To be sure, he claimed to have gotten it from John, but he either did not understand him, or did not get it from him at all. He was already said by Eusebius to have a limited understanding.
Two points may be noted before continuing. Even the modernist theologians do not deny that the whole church up to Luther’s time believed that the Bible is inspired by God. They cannot indeed deny it, otherwise they would be lying. But they say: "They (the apostolic fathers) did not put forward a theory." But that is not surprising. Doesn’t the theory become apparent from the practice? It is only a stopgap when they say: "There was no theory." But if it is stated: "Scripture is inspired," isn’t that sufficient theory? But what they are thinking is this: "It has not been indicated what is divine in Holy Scripture and what is human in it." No one dares to make this distinction (in the statements of the apostolic fathers). They do not want to reach into the glowing coals, for they would be contradicted everywhere. Satan, the spirit of darkness, inspires them to this approach. We have for all questions in the Bible such splendid and extensive answers, that we do not need "theories." They need not be amazed that the apostolic fathers do not put forth a "theory," for they were writing to Christian congregations, who believed wholeheartedly that Scripture was inspired. In the first centuries many Christian congregations never had opportunity to see a letter from the apostles.-- Accordingly we find that the apostolic fathers testified (1) that God spoke in Scripture and (2) that the writings of the apostles were equated with the writings of the prophets.
Barnabas says in his "Catholic Epistle," Chap. 5: "Therefore He suffered, for God says: ‘The afflictions of His flesh were for your sakes.’" Here he is citing Is.53:8. Barnabas must therefore have presupposed that all his readers took for granted that God said this and not Isaiah. In Chapter 8 he says: "The Lord says by the prophets:’At the hearing of the ear they have obeyed Me." He is quoting Is. 18:4. Barnabas was, as is well known, a companion of the apostle Paul and died in the first century; the exact year is not known. Probably it was 70 A.D. , shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem. He suffered the death of a martyr, incited by the Jews on Cyprus. He was a Levite.
Clement of Rome was bishop of Rome. The year of his death is unknown, probably in the first quarter of the second century. He was a disciple of Peter. His first epistle to the Corinthians 45:2 says: "You have diligently examined the Scriptures, which are true, inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not hidden from you, you know it well, that nothing wrong or misleading is written in them." This is a ringing witness against the modern theologians. His 1 Corinthians 53 says: "You know the Holy Scriptures, dear friends, and you know them well, and have studied the divine oracles" (logia tou theou).
Lecture X (February 19, 1886)
My friends, as different as the realm of nature and the realm of Scriptural revelation are from each other, they still correspond in this regard: that, on the one hand, they both appear to be so irregular, but, on the other hand, when one looks more deeply into them, each shows itself to be an incomparably well-crafted whole. How irregular the stars seem to be, like seeds strewn in the immeasurable spaces of the world of the universe! But the astronomers teach us that precisely in the world of the stars, the most rigorous, wonderfully worthy order is found. How confused and disorderly each kingdom of nature appears to be, the kingdom of Animalia or beasts, the kingdom of Vegatabia or plants, the kingdom of Mineralia or stones and earth! But the natural historians demonstrate to us that all these kingdoms of nature form an exceedingly harmonious whole. It would indeed be self-evident that the investigators of nature should come to the conclusion that this totality must have been created by an almighty, wise, intelligent absolute being. But, unfortunately, those who are the most celebrated natural investigators of our nineteenth century (I remind you only of Alexander Humboldt, the writer on the cosmos, who demonstrates that the whole world forms a great, coherent whole), instead of being worshipers of God, are for the most part worshipers of nature and have gone back from God to it. There is a similar state of affairs with the Scriptural revelation. At first glance it appears to be nothing less than a work of art, rather than a collection by chance and without purpose of books of doctrine, history and prophecy. On the contrary, the earliest investigators of Scripture have put together and erected a wonderful edifice of teaching out of the many thousands of biblical statements, as out of quarry stones. There every piece fits with the other, and one sees how everything was prepared already beforehand with a purpose, to be joined together with everything else. Certainly from this comes one of the most striking demonstrations that Scripture cannot be human wisdom, but the work of a divine omniscience. But unfortunately so many celebrated theologians–celebrated, that is, by the world–do not want to recognize this any more, but explain and treat Scripture as a witness of the human spirit. Ah, my friends, do we want in this last troubled time to be robbed of faith? If we allow this, we allow ourselves to be robbed of salvation. For on this fact, that the Bible is the Word of the Living God, Christianity has stood unshakably, unconquerably, from the beginning through all the centuries up to the present day as a rock foundation, not to be taken by storm. O may we also today, when we ourselves further examine how the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures is the teaching of the ancient church, strengthen ourselves in this faith, for we need it, my dear friends; for not only those theologians have a lustful reason, but we also carry it in our bosoms. Luther said even of himself that he leaned toward surrendering to Zwingli the assertion that Christ’s body and blood are truly distributed in the Lord’s Supper, but Luther continued: "I am taken captive, the text is too strong and overpowering." Indeed, if he had not had such faith, he would have defected from the pure Gospel already in 1529. But God preserved him. He was chosen from eternity to build up the ancient church again, after the Christians already for a thousand years had cried out. God heard the cries of these wretched ones and sent this man, as trusting as a child and as sharp-witted as a philosopher. One needs only read his writings to find that one cannot judge as the moderns do; it is only fanatics who say that.
All the following writers were martyrs. They testified against heathendom and were blood witnesses for the divinity of Holy Scripture.
Three more testimonies from Clement of Rome: From his first letter to the Corinthians (everyone agrees that this letter comes from Clement), 22:1-2: "Christian faith confirms all this, which is in Christ, where He Himself speaks to us through the Holy Spirit in this way: ‘Come, you children, listen to Me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.’" There he is citing Ps. 34:11. Again, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 43: "Everything that was commanded him, he recorded, which the rest of the prophets followed." He is speaking here of Moses, who wrote nothing other than what was commanded him and invented nothing, as the modern theologians are saying. Again, Chapter 45: "Look in Scripture, it is the true words of the Holy Spirit."
Ignatius was bishop of Antioch in Syria, a disciple of John, an incomparably holy man, who appears to have died probably in 115 or even107. He was thrown to the lions in the Colosseum. On board ship he wrote a splendid letter to his congregation. His motto was: "My love is crucified." In his letter to the Magnesians, Chapter 9, he wrote: "We stand our ground, so as to become disciples of Christ, our only teacher. How can we live without Him, whom even the prophets, when they were His disciples by the Spirit, awaited as their teacher?" The prophets are here called Christ’s disciples because His Holy Spirit was in them. They longed for the Messiah as for their teacher. These passages, of course, show the doctrine of Inspiration only formally. For the fathers did not set up a system. It was taken for granted that all Christians believed this, and to give the proof for the doctrine would be purely superfluous.
Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna, also a disciple of John the Evangelist. He was burned at the stake in 168. He was highly esteemed by his congregation. In his epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 12, showing that the apostolic fathers completely equated the writings of the apostles with the writings of the prophets, he says: "For I have good confidence that you are well versed in the Holy Scriptures. And nothing escapes you, which is something not granted to me. But as it is written in Scripture: ‘Be angry and sin not’ (Ps. 4:5) and ‘Let not the sun go down on your anger’ (Eph. 4:26).’"
It was in the second century that writings were first really circulated. The reason why is accounted for if one takes into consideration the labor of copying and forwarding such writings. Naturally the heathen did everything they could to try to extirpate all holy writings, which also explains why so many writings have been lost, which we now know at most by name, or we find only single sentences from them in passages of other writings. Johann Georg Hamann says: "If the Heavenly Father says that no sparrow shall fall from its shelter apart from His will, so also no book would be lost which is necessary to us for knowledge or defense of truth." So also John Gerhard says of some enthusiastic writings of Irenaeus: "They perished by God’s grace."
In the period between the apostolic fathers and the church fathers belong Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Athenagoras. Many writings from this time have likewise been lost. The same with the first apologies–those of Melito, Apollinaris, Aristides, Miltiades. Nothing but a few words of them are preserved in other writings.
Justin was born in Sichim in Samaria. He was originally a heathen and came from a distinguished family. He studied in many places to become a cultivated philosopher. The Platonic philosophy was most appealing to him. But always he had to say: "Is that really true?" One time he walked along a seashore, musing. There he found an old man, of venerable appearance, friendly, a Christian from the bottom of his heart. At first he spoke with him about Platonic philosophy. The old man said to him that even this teaching is not the truth, but the Jews had a book which contained the truth. Holy, enlightened men, prophets, had set down this truth. Justin bought the book and felt the divine power work in him. He came to repentance. He relates this himself in his Admonition to the Greeks. He died in the year 163. He was a Christian for only a short time. Then he had to give his life for this truth he had acknowledged. What a proof this is for the divinity of the Holy Scriptures! In the foolish doctrine of the crucified Christ he had found the teaching which he could not find in all the philosophical works. In Chapter 8 he writes: "Not from nature and human sagacity can such great and divine things be known by man, but only through that which, coming down from above, was given to holy men, who did not need the art of words and disputation, but surrendered themselves to the working of the Holy Spirit, by which the plucker coming down from heaven made use of righteous men like a zither or a harp and revealed the knowledge of divine things." Beautiful! He sees the apostles and prophets as like a zither; if they were to make music, they must be played. The Holy Spirit was the plucker that called forth the tones, for the zither itself can bring forth no beautiful melodies, but He who strikes the zither makes the melodies. Justin makes exactly the same comparison as the dogmaticians of the 17th century. Now come the modern, self-esteeming theologians and call it ridiculous.
Chapter 10 of the Admonition says: "We say that these (the prophets) were the teachers of of our religion and taught nothing by virtue of their human reflection, but by the gift bestowed from above."
In Chapter 65 of his Dialog against Trypho, between a Christian and a Jew, the Christian is obliged to convince the Jew of the divinity of Christianity and says: "I am thoroughly convinced that no Scripture contradicts another. I will rather confess that I do not understand what is said and endeavor to convince those who object that the Scriptures contradict themselves, that they say one and the same thing." That is correct theology.
Lecture XI (February 26, 1886)
Justin Martyr is a martyr in the most eminent sense, because he, after his conversion from heathen philosopher to Christian, had to give up his life. Two more testimonies from him follow here. From his First Apology, Chapter 33: "And that the prophets were moved by nothing other than the divine Word, even you, I fancy, will say." Indeed you admit it, you are Christians, you must know it! For that reason we find so little said of the doctrine of Inspiration in the writings of that time. They validated it in practice at that time on the stake, on the gallows, in the depths of the sea. No systematic, learned presentation and argumentation was needed, as later, when the Christians had peace.
From the Dialog with Trypho, Chapter 8: "A man named John, one of the apostles of Christ, prophesied in one of the revelations seen by him." This is an important witness for the Revelation of John, which was already questioned in the third century.
Athenagoras lived past 176, perhaps till the period of Marcus Aurelius. He dedicated his writing, Supplication of Athenagoras, the Athenian Philospher, for the Christians, to Marcus Aurelius. Written in 161 at the enthronement of Marcus Aurelius, the Supplication, Chapter 9 says: "I think that you are not unacquainted with Moses and Isaiah and the other prophets, who expressed what they taught, while the divine Spirit moved them in an ecstasy, that is, the Spirit availed Himself of them as a flute player blows on a flute." The Lutheran theologians, like Luther, also compared inspiration to playing a wind instrument. It is true he speaks of an ecstasy. That expression was later rejected by all church fathers on account of Tertullian. But "ecstasy" need not be understood to mean simply that one loses his consciousness, but it also indicates that one’s own spirit is lifted by another spirit above what is earthly. But even if he did use an incorrect word, one still sees that it was a very serious matter to him that the Scriptures were of divine inspiration. All the moderns grant that Athenagoras was the most gifted among all the writers and had the most beautiful Greek style.
Now we come to Theophilus, who became Bishop of Antioch and died in 180. He was a heathen by birth, and, to be sure, a cultured heathen. He was converted and wrote a defense of Christianity, for the sake of a heathen friend who did not want to join him in becoming a Christian, entitled To Autolycus concerning the Faith. He writes (in Book II, of the heathen authors contradicting each other): "Some introduced and taught a truth, that there was a Providence, some in opposition denied that there was a Providence. Hence Euripides says clearly and plainly: ‘We labor with many things, because we are filled with empty hopes.’ Knowing nothing, they confess against their will that they do not know the truth; but being inspired by demons and puffed up by them, they have said what they said. Thus the poets Homer and Hesiod, who were said to be inspired by the muses, spoke from their fantasy and their errors, and not from a pure but a false spirit. This becomes clear and obvious to us, when the possessed are sometimes exorcised in the name of the true God, and the false spirits themselves confess that they are demons, by whom those were possessed at that time. But sometimes some of them have become sober and, for a witness to themselves and to all men, have spoken things in harmony with the prophets about the unity of God and His judgment and other things of which they spoke. But the men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit and became prophets, inspired by God Himself and made wise, taught by God, and made holy and righteous. Therefore they were deemed worthy of receivingthis reward, that they should become instruments of God , by which they obtained wisdom, by which wisdom they spoke of the creation of the world and all the other things. For they predicted also pestilence, famine, and hunger, and there were not one or two, but many at various times among the Hebrews, and also, the Sibyl among the Greeks. Thus they have all spoken in agreement with each other about things that are past, about what took place in their lifetimes, and what is fulfilled in our own times. Hence we are also convinced in regard to things still to come, that they will take place just as the others have been accomplished." Book II, Section 47: "From this it is evident that all others have erred, but the Christians have obtained the truth, for we are taught and instructed by the Holy Spirit, who spoke and prophesied everything in the prophets." And Section 14: "Moses, who lived many years before Solomon said–or rather the Logos said through him as His instrument-- ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’"
Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, who died in 202. He was born in Asia Minor, but migrated with a Christian colony to the region of Lyon and became bishop there and at Vienna. He writes in his writing Against Heresies, Book 2,Chapter 27: "Moreover, Matthew might have [merely] set down [in Matt. 1:18]: ‘The birth of Jesus happened in this way.’ But because the Holy Spirit foresaw the corrupters and wanted to guard in advance against their deceit, He says through Matthew: ‘The birth of Christ happened in this way’ and He is ‘Emmanuel, God with us’ (v. 23), lest we might consider Him as a mere man (for not by the will of the flesh, but by the will of God , was the Logos made flesh), that we should not imagine that Jesus was one person and Christ was another, but should know that He was one and the same." Here the Word is demonstrated to be inspiration, which he formally expresses. His writings are an armory of theological knowledge. In the same writing, Book 2,Chapter 28, he writes: "The Scriptures are perfect, for they were spoken by the Logos of God and His Spirit."
One of the fathers of the third century was Clement of Alexandria (not Clement of Rome, who belongs in the first century). This was the time of the most dreadful persecution and therefore of few writings. The writings of the apostles were enough for those people; nevertheless there were a few writings. Clement was a profoundly learned man. He wrote A Word of Admonition to the Greeks (as heathen, in contrast to the Jews). He was born in Athens of a prominent family. He was apparently converted by Pantaenus. In the aforementioned writing, of which the best edition is the one of Sylburg, 1688, he writes in Folio 56: "For the Apostle, because he knew that this doctrine was in truth divine, he says: ‘Because you, O Timothy, have known the Holy Scriptures (the holy letters) from childhood, they are able to make you wise unto salvation,’ for in truth they are saving letters.’ There the apostle designates these writings, put together from these letters and syllables, as a collection of books inspired by God, which are profitable for doctrine, etc." In Folio 7 he writes: "It is the same Lord who speaks in Isaiah, the same in Elijah, the same in the mouth of the prophets."
In Stromata (Clement’s most famous writing), Book 7, Folio 757, he says: "But when it is not enough merely to express one’s opinion, but rather it is necessary to prove what is said, then we expect not a testimony of men, but proofs of the matter in question by the voice of the Lord, which is more valuable than a presentation of reasons; it is rather the unique demonstration of the knowledge which is counted faithful by the Holy Scriptures." Again, in Book 4, Folio 698 of the same writing: "No one needs to be startled at the prophets of the almighty God, who were instruments of the divine voice."
Lecture XII (March 5, 1886)
We have come to the third century, to Clement of Alexandria. The next man to whom we come is one who had left the orthodox church for a long time and in his old age sought to be reconciled with the church of the Catholics of that time, namely Tertullian. He had been offended by the sorry life of the Christians at that time and joined the Montanists. Luther calls him the ancient Karlstadt. As a Montanist he went too far and thought that he even had the spirit of prophecy and miracles. He writes in his book Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 12: "A man who is in the Spirit (who is inspired), that is, when he beholds the glory of God or God speaks through him, must necessarily lose consciousness, overshadowed, that is to say, by divine power." When Paul was raptured, he nevertheless did not lose consciousness, but his consciousness was elevated. Andreas Rudelbach says in his journal: "The ancient church thoroughly rejected this viewpoint along with Marcion. The most thorough explanation is by Epiphanias in the second book of Against Heresies. As Eusebius reports, Miltiades already wrote [an anti-Montanist book] about this point, saying that ‘a prophet would not speak in ectasy.’" Tertullian is the first Latin writer of Christendom, and his writings are an extraordinarily rich source of knowledge. He died between 212 and 220.
Julius Africanus died in 232. In this century there are few witnesses because the Christian had to defend Christendom with blood more than with writings. Why he was called Africanus is not known. He was bishop of Emmaus in Palestine. According to Eusebius he writes in a letter to Aristides about the genealogies of Matthew and Luke: "Whether the matter be thus or otherwise, as far as I and every reasonable judge would say, it is not easy to find another clearer solution. And we can let this suffice. For the Gospel absolutely speaks the truth." Therefore he wants to say: Although my explanation is not completely satisfying, we must be certain that both accounts recorded by the evangelists are true. Even Friedrich Philippi cites this statement, but unfortunately he is led by the trend of his time to make a concession when he says: "It would certainly be possible for an error to occur in an unessential matter." That is the most dreadful flaw in his dogmatics book.
Hippolytus, presbyter of Ostia, a disciple of Irenaeus, died in 250. He writes in Chapter 17 of Against Noetus: "As through the prophets, so also from the mouth of the apostles the Holy Spirit spoke."
Origen was the most learned among the church fathers, a marvelous man. After many persecutions he died in 254. His father, Leonidas. came into the dilemma of either dying a martyr’s death or denying his faith. He set his son Origen before him and adjured him not to deny his Christianity and his faith. And Leonidas died as a martyr. He was a philosophical mind, gifted like few others, an expert in the oriental languages like none other; but it caused him to bring human thoughts into theology. But the belief that the writers were inspired did not leave him. He introduced many errors; after his death a great controversy arose between those who condemned Origen and those who wanted to be his disciples. He felt lusts of unchastity in himself, and that was frightful for him, so that he would rather die than endure it. In order to set himself free from these lusts, he thought of castrating himself. Even if he was wrong in this, you see how earnestly he wanted to live a holy life before God. He was a catechumen in Alexandria and a follower of Clement of Alexandria.
In his work Concerning the Beginnings, Book 4, Chapter 1, he writes (according to the translation of Rufinus): "If any one considers the prophetic utterances with all diligence and the reverence they deserve, it is certain that as he reads and examines them, he will feel touched by a divine breath and then recognize that the words which he reads are not uttered by men but are God’s words, and will discover that they are written in an exalted style that is divine." It can be seen that he does not merely present the doctrine; he says and directs to read in Scripture. Then one will perceive what an impulse one receives, and soon perceive that the words come from God and not from men. In his 21st homily on John he writes: "It is fitting to believe that Holy Scripture does not have one tittle which would be empty of God’s truth." Further, in the 39th homily on Jeremiah: "It is also no surprise, if every word spoken by the prophets works a work corresponding to the Word, for I believe rather that every miracle is worked by the effective Word and that not a jot or tittle is written which does not accomplish its work for those who know how to use it. God has given a power to each of His words, and that accomplishes it."
From his commentary on Matthew: "Do you think that the Evangelist stated for no purpose that the blind man threw off his garment and came to Jesus? I believe that no jot and no tittle is in vain in God’s instruction to men" (Hütius’ edition, p. 128, cited by Rudelbach in the 1840 volume of his journal). From the 27th homily on Deuteronomy: " In no way can we say of the Scriptures of the Holy Spirit that there is anything superficial or worthless in them, although
much may appear dark. Let us rather cast the eyes of our spirit on Him who commanded these to be written and ask for understanding from Him instead of following our reason and call upon Him for His Holy Spirit."
Cyprian was a splendid man. Among the church fathers Luther bore the most respect in his heart for Cyprian. He became a Christian only in his later years, being converted in 240. He was a teacher of rhetoric in Carthage, a celebrated speaker. After three years he was made Bishop of Carthage, for he made fast, remarkable progress in knowledge. Everything he wrote was hewn from precious stone. He sealed his teaching with his blood in 258. He wrote in his Sermon on Almsgiving (Erasmus’ edition):"The Holy Spirit speaks through Solomon and says: He who gives to the poor will lack nothing (Prov. 28). The apostle Paul, full of the inspiration of the Lord, says the same: He who supplies seed to the sower will also supply bread to you (2 Cor. 9)." First he cites the Old Testament, then the New Testament. August Cremer says that the word "inspiration" first came into the church through the Vulgate, and when the students hear that, they think: "Yes, the Vulgate! Then it is probably not true!" But that was only said to make it uncertain. But here we see that Cyprian has the word "inspiration"! He died in 258, and Jerome, the actual translator of the Vulgate died in the fifth century. Therefore the expression was in the Christian Church already long before the Vulgate.
Lecture XIII (March 12, 1886)
In the Sermon on Almsgiving Cyprian also wrote: "Never, my most beloved brethren, were the divine admonitions stopped, never silenced, so that in the old as well as in the new holy writings always and everywhere the people of God were directed to do works of mercy, and by the singing and admonishing Holy Spirit every one who was instructed for the hope of the heavenly kingdom, was commanded to give alms." "The singing and admonishing Holy Spirit"–it is precisely this that the moderns ridicule. They say:"How can David, who expressed his innermost thoughts of the heart, be said to be inspired in that by the Holy Spirit?" Cyprian says in his Sermon on Foot Washing: "That is no less holy, which the Holy Spirit dictated and delivered and commanded to do in remembrance of Him. The peculiar worth remains for the one as for the other, and the treatment is the same on all pages, nothing can be added, nothing taken away, nothing improved or altered." But the moderns say: "There is of course much in Scripture to be completed, much to change , to correct," and so on. Let them maintain their Bible, if they can die on the basis of it. We don’t want it.
Lactantius was a disciple of Arnobius, dying in 330. He was a tutor in the house of the emperor Constantine. He was called the Christian Cicero, because of his splendid Latin. It is true that he did not go very deep into Christianity, but he was known to be a man of integrity. He writes in his Divine Institutions, Book 6: On the True Worship, Chapter 21: "Those who are used to suave and polite speech will know nothing of the simple and common speech of Holy Scripture, as something ‘inferior.’ For they seek that which favors the feeling. But everything that is acceptable persuades and holds fast in the heart, in which it brings delight. Can therefore the Creator not speak in the polite expressions of sense and tongue just as well as in those of the understanding? No, rather in contrast, He wants to take the greatest care that what is divine be free of the infusion of falsehood, so that all may understand what He says to all."
Another father of the fourth century is Hilary. Luther says that Hilary and Augustine are the two greatest lights of the church. The ancient church called him the Athanasius of the West. For what Athanasius had done for orthodoxy in the Orient, in Greece, Hilary did in the West. He died in 368. In his book Explanation of the Psalms, under Ps. 68 (Ps. 139 in our reckoning), he writes: "Every prophetic discourse proceeded from the inspiration of the divine Spirit, and it is not uncertain when we say:’Thus says the Lord!’ (Jer. 31:2). And again: "Now hear the Word of the Lord!’ (Is. 28:14). And yet again:’For the mouth of the Lord says it!’ (Is. 58:14). As regards the Psalms, the Lord Himself establishes it in the Gospel, when He speaks of Himself: ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him Lord? As you say, He is his son" (Matt. 22:43,45). By this He teaches that David spoke everything in the prophetic Spirit. But though He has indicated in this passage that he has spoken of Him, when He says that he has called Him his Lord in the Spirit, he further indicates that in the Psalms the whole mystery of His coming in the flesh is contained, since He says: ‘This is the speech which I spoke to you when I was yet with you; for all must be fulfilled which was written of Me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms’ (Luke 24:44). So it is not doubtful that it is written of Him in the Psalm, for though most of their contents is so constituted that it alludes to the person of the patriarchs, the prophets, the martyrs, the apostles, even the first and following generations nevertheless, since everything is in Christ and through Christ, whatever in the Psalms is mentioned under the persons of the various prophets, everything treats of Him."
Hilary further writes at Psalm 118 (Ps 119 in our reckoning): "The words of God are everything that the prophets have spoken."
Athanasius died in 373. Kurz says of him: "The history of his life is the history of his time!"–to indicate that he was actually the driving force of it. He was a gigantic spirit not only because of his natural gifts and character, but because of his heroic faith. Because of his battle of heroic spirit against Arianism he received the nickname "Father of Orthodoxy." He led a miserable life under constant persecution. He writes in his book On the Unity and Eternal Substance of the Holy Trinity, Book 2, folio 9 b: "Hear the Holy Spirit, who testifies through Jeremiah the prophet, or, rather, reprimands the heretics according to His authority." Further, in On the Incarnation of the Word, Book 1, folio 34 d:"The Jews have a judgment upon their unbelief in the books which they also read, since every page inspired by God prophesies that which will happen, and what is said is brighter than the sun." Further, in his Letter Concurring with the Council of Nicaea : "That the Son of God is the Word and the Wisdom of the Father
we have learned from divine Scripture, as we said at the first. If then they (the Arians) deny what stands written, then they are truly enemies and not worthy of the Name and should actually before everybody be called godless and enemies of Christ. But if they agree with us that the words of Scripture are inspired by God, then let them boldly say out loud what they secretly think, namely, that God is just stupid and foolish, and speak like madmen: ‘there was a time when He was not,’ and ‘Before He was born, Christ did not exist.’" (For it is madness, to concede that Scripture is inspired by God and then to assert such things as are directly contrary to it.)
Lecture XIV (March 19, 1886)
We have entered the fourth century, the most fruitful with respect to Christian literature. There we find not only the most passages, but also such writings as are of very special value. To these writings also those of Athanasius belong. The direct evidences of others are not as plentiful.
In his Letters to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms, Vol. III, Athanasius writes: "All of our Scripture, the new as well as the old, has come forth from the breath of the deity." This is a direct testimony. It is important because he attests also the New Testament as coming from the breath of the deity, for earlier writers mostly spoke only about the Old Testament. To attest to the Christians that the Scriptures of the apostles were inspired by God was not necessary. They had become Christians and had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. But we also have sufficient testimonies that they also believed concerning the New Testament Scriptures that they arose by the divine breath (Afflatus divinitatis).
Athanasius was also called the Father of Orthodoxy He rightly bore this name. A glorious man.
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