Abraham Kuyper.

Encyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... online

. (page 42 of 64)
Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 42 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

with Him.

§ 78. The Testimony of the Apostles

The self-testimony of the Scripture lies so much concen-
trically in Jesus, that only in connection with His judgment
has the testimony of the apostles any real value. His disci-
ples were His followers. If with reference to the Old Testa-
ment Jesus had paid homage to a method of viewing it which
diverged from the then current one, the disciples would not
have followed the common conception, but the diverging
conception of Jesus. If, from their ministry, it appears that
they themselves adhered to the current conception, it may be
inferred from this that they were at no time warned against
it by Jesus, that He had rather confirmed it, and Himself
had not departed from it. The testimony of the apostles,
therefore, has this value, that it throws further light upon


Jesus' own conception, and confirms tlie result of the former

Of the apostles, also, it is not difficult to show that they
were familiar with the idea of inspiration and that they held
it. This appears most strongly from Acts ii. 4: "And they
were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with
other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Now
aTTOcf^Oeyyeadai is to utter an audible sound. Without solv-
ing the question whether by " other tongues " languages of
other peoples are to be vmderstood, or sounds of an entirely
peculiar sort, in either case the apostles brought forth sounds
which were not produced from their own consciousness, but
were the product of an action which went out upon them from
the Holy Ghost. This is inspiration in the fullest sense of
the word. Thus we read in Acts viii. 29 : " And the Spirit
said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot."
It does not say that this thought arose in him, but that a
speaking took place ; and where it is our point to know the
conception which was current in the apostolic circle, we must,
of course, be careful to note their way of expressing them-
selves. Of the Jews, it is said in Rom. iii. 2, " That they were
entrusted with the oracles of God." Ucarevdrjvac implies
that to you, as ruler, or manager, or steward, something is
committed which does not belong to you, has not been pro-
duced by you, but is the property of another subject, and
over which you are placed in a position of responsibility.
Of the grain which he himself has raised, the farmer cannot
say that it is committed to him ; this is only true of the grain
which was raised by another, and is stored in his barn.
Hence, the apostolic representation is not that thoughts, but
that "• utterances " (Xoyca') were given to them for safe-keeping
and care, which were not original with themselves, but had
another as subject, author and owner. And that other subject
is named, for they are called " the oracles of God." In 1 Cor.
vii. 40, after having given a rule for matrimony, the apostle
says, " and I think that I also have the Spirit of God." There
is, therefore, no question here of a moral excellence, nor yet
of more holiness, but of an insight into the will of God. God


alone can decide the question of marriage ; the only question
for us is to know the will of God, and, by his statement, Paul
claims to possess that knowledge, on the ground that he, as
well as the writers of the Old Testament and other apostles,
had received the Holy Ghost. That this exegesis is correct,
appears from 1 Thess. iv. 9 ; cf . verse 2. In verse 2, he had
said : " For ye know what charges we gave you," and after
an instruction in the principles of these charges, he follows
it up with these words, in verse 8 : " Therefore he that
rejecteth, rejecteth not man, but God, who giveth his Holy
Spirit unto you." Thus he assumes that his ordinances are
the clear expression of God's will ; that for this reason they
are divinely authoritative ; and he explains this from the
fact that a work of the Holy Spirit has taken place in them
or on behalf of the church. Of Moses, it is written in
Heb. viii. 5, that he was admonished of God when he was
about to make the tabernacle : " See that thou make all
things according to the pattern that was shewed thee in the
mount." To him, therefore, had come an utterance from
the oracle^ for such is the meaning of /ce^^^pT/^arto-rat, accord-
ing to the conception which was then current in the apos-
tolic circle ; something that did not come up from himself,
but was given him from without ; it referred to a very con-
crete affair, to wit: that the plan for the tabernacle was not
to be designed by himself, but had been brought to him from
outside. In James v. 10, we read that the prophets " spake in
the name of the Lord," which implies that what was spoken
b}^ them was not binding in virtue of the authority of their
own person or insight, but was spoken by them in the name
of Christ Himself ; which either assumes a fanatical pre-
sumption, or, since the apostle does not mean this, can only
be explained by the idea of inspiration. In Rev. xxii. 17-20,
it is said that Christ bears witness to that which, by exclu-
sively Divine authority, is written in the Apocalypse (to the
words of the prophecy of this book), so that adding to or
taking away from the things written in this book involves the
penalty of eternal loss. According to 1 Pet. i. 12, the preach-
ing of the apostles is done " by the Holy Ghost sent forth from


heaven" ; even as it was "the Spirit of Christ" who in the
prophets did signify beforehand (jrpofiaprvpoixevov). Even
though the eV TrvevfiuTL point to a different modality from the
Trpofiapjvpofxevov, botli expressions, nevertheless, in their con-
nection refer to one and the same idea of inspiration, which
receives its more general description in 2 Pet. i. 21, by the
authentic declaration that prophecy did not find its origin in
the " will " of the prophets themselves, but in the fact, that
they, as "men of God" spoke that which entered into their
consciousness while "they were being moved by the Holy
Ghost : *' a representation which was evidently applied by
them, even though in modified form, to the entire Scripture
of the Old Testament, as appears from the " all Scripture is
theopneustic," in 2 Tim. iii. 16. The fact, therefore, that
the apostles held the idea of inspiration, and applied it to the
Old Testament, admits of no difference of opinion.

In the second place, it must also be noted that the apostles,
also, did not look upon the Old Testament as a collection
of literary documents, but as one codex, which was organi-
cally constructed and clothed with Divine authority. That
unity lies already expressed in the Traa-a 'ypa^rj of 2 Tim, iii. 16,
which does not mean the ivhole Scripture but every Scripture,
and hence does not emphasize the unity only, but simultane-
ously the organic unity. The same thought lies in 1 Pet. i.
12 : " To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves,
but unto you, did they minister these things." First, all the
prophets are here taken under one head, and to their collec-
tive labor the character is attributed, not of its being a work
of their own, over which they have the right of disposal, but
of its being a labor which they have performed with another
purpose, which lay outside of them, and which was deter-
mined by God. According to Heb. i. 1, it is not human
insight, but God Himself, which spake to the fathe.-s when
they were spoken to by the prophets, and however much this
took place "by divers portions and in divers manners," it all
belonged together, formed one whole, and together consti-
tuted God's testimony to the fathers. The apostolic manner
of quoting confirms this. They also do not quote by the name


of the author, but as <ypa(f)i] aud ^eypaTrrai. In Rom. iv. 17,
proof is furnished by " as it is written " ; in Rom. x. 11, the
phrase, " for the Scripture says," is conclusive. By the words,
" according as it is written," in Rom. xi. 8, all contradiction
is cut off. This shows, indeed, that according to the apostolic
representation, the entire Old Testament forms one whole,
which is organically connected, and the content of which is
authoritative, because it appears in this codex. Even the
prayer of Elijah is quoted in Rom. xi. 2, as "What the
Scripture saith," after which the answer of God to his prayer
is mentioned as o ;)^/377 /iarto-fto? (the Divine response), and
thus distinguished from the excitement of his own spirit.
Especially characteristic in this respect is the extensive quo-
tation in Rom. iii. 10-18, which is referred to as one con-
tinuous argument, and yet is constructed from no less than
six different chapters ; viz. Ps. xiv. 1-3, Ps. v. 9, Ps. cxl. 3,
Ps. x. 7, Isaiah lix. 7, and Ps. xxxvi. 1. These parts are
introduced by a jeypaTrraL, " it is written," and explained by
the " what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them
that are under the law." Teypairrai as the perfect tense,
especially in a quotation composed of so many parts, is even
stronger than ypa^rj^ because it is equivalent to what we call
a law: "law enacted is sacred" (lex lata, lex saneta est).
VeypaTTTai implies not only that it occurs or is found in the
Scripture, but that as an expression of truth it bears the Divine
seal. In the same way, after a quotation from the Psalms and
Isaiah, the " what things soever the law saith " convincingly
indicates that no importance is attached to Isaiah nor to
David, but simply to the fact that it occurs in the holy
codex. In these quotations the apostles do not confine
themselves for support to the authority of pericopes or
extended passages, but base their argument equally well
upon a single word from the Old Testament ; one may
almost say upon a single letter. In Gal. iii. 16, the entire
argument rests upon the singular " seed " ; if in the original
one letter had been written differently, and the plural had
appeared, the entire apostolic argument would have lost its
force. Tlie same you find in 1 Pet. iii. 5, 6, where the


exhortation rests upon the fact that Sarah called her hus-
band "lord." In the apostolic circle, no such quotations
could have been made, if the conviction had not been preva-
lent that inspiration extended even to the word and to the
form of the word ; which connection between form and con-
tent, Paul also confirms for himself, when in 1 Cor. ii. 13,
he declares : " Which things also we speak, not in the words
which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches ;
comparing spiritual things with spiritual." In this state-
ment, indeed, the " human " and the " pneumatic " cannot
stand over against each other as the intellectual and the
mystical. He also bears witness instrumentally through his
mind; his speaking, also, is the expression of intelligence,
mostly calculated to address the understanding rather than
the emotions. The " pneumatica," therefore, cannot intend
anything else but the fountain from which the impulse for
his utterances proceeds, and that fountain, he says, does not
lie in man, but in the Spirit, and thus in a power which
affects him from without.

In the third place it must be conceded, that in the apos-
tolic circle also the Old Testament was considered as the
predestined tra7iscript of God's counsel, of which the instru-
mental author has, often unconsciously, produced the record,
and which, as being of a higher origin, has Divine authority.
This appears clearly in Acts ii. 24, 25, where Peter says : " It
was not possible that He should be holden of death." And
why does he deem this impossible ? Because Jesus was the Son
of God ? Undoubtedly for this also ; of this, however, Peter
makes no mention, but states as the only reason that it was
thus written in Ps. xvi. : " Neither wilt thou give thy Holy
One to see corruption." Hence the "impossibility" rests
upon the fact that the opposite to this was written in the Old
Testament ; an argument which suits only with the supposi-
tion that the Old Testament furnishes us with the program of
what must happen according to God's counsel and will. To
that counsel and to that foreknowledge of God he refers us
definitely in what immediately precedes : " Him being deliv-
ered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of


God." Of a similar tendency is what we read in Acts i. 16,
where Peter says : " It was needful that the Scripture should
be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spake before by the mouth
of David." The thought here quoted is not from David,
but from the Holy Ghost, even though the Holy Ghost made
use of the mouth of David by which to utter it, and because
the Holy Ghost took this thought from the counsel of God,
it had to be fulfilled. In Matt. xiii. 34, 35, the apostle
Matthew inserts the observation, that Jesus had to speak in
parables, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by
the prophet." In a similar way the apostle John inserts his
" that the Scripture might be fulfilled " in John xix. 24, and
elsewhere. And all these expressions of "must needs be,"
" it is necessary," " was not possible," " that the Scripture
might be fulfilled," etc., have no meaning unless it was be-
lieved in the apostolic circle as an undoubted fact, that the
Old Testament presents us the Divine program of things to
come, with such certainty as to render it entirely trustworthy.
Hence there is no hesitancy in announcing God the Holy
Spirit as the speaking subject in the Old Testament. Acts
vii. 6, "And God spake on this wise"; Rom. ii. 4, "But
what saith the answer of God unto him ? " Heb. i. 6, " When
he bringeth in the firstborn into the world, he saith"; Heb.
i. 13, " But of which of the angels hath he said at any time ";
Acts i. 16, " the Scripture . . . which the Holy Ghost spake
before by the mouth of David"; Heb. x. 15, "And the Holy
Ghost also beareth witness to us ; for after he hath said . . .
saith the Lord " : expressions which are used not only when it
concerns a saying of God (dictum Dei), but also when God
is spoken of in the third person, as for instance Heb. iii. 7,
" Wherefore, even as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye shall
hear his voice," or with the mention of facts, as in Heb. ix. 8,
" the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holy
place hath not yet been made manifest."

The stringing together of quotations from different books,
such as appears in Acts i. 20, Rom. xi. 8, 26, xv. 9, 1 Tim.
V. 18, etc., shows equally clearly, that in the estimation of
the apostles the human authors fall entirely in the back-


ground. Such quoting is only conceivable and warranted
by the supposition that all these sayings, however truly they
have come to us by several writers, are actually from one
and the same author ; exactly in the same way in which one
quotes from the works of the same writer or from the articles of
the same lawgiver. That this was indeed the apostolic appre-
hension appears more clearly still from the fact, which they
state: that the words of the Old Testament often contain more
than the writers themselves understood. In Rom. iv. 23 it is
said of the words from Gen. xv. 6, that "it was reckoned
unto him for righteousness," did not refer to Abraham only,
as the writer must have intended, but also to us. In Rom.
XV. 3, Ps. Ixix. 9 is quoted, and what David exclaimed in a
Psalm, which cannot stand before the ethical judgment of
many, is cited as coming from the Messianic subject ; and
yet this quotation furnishes the apostle the occasion for the
general statement, " that whatsoever things were written
aforetime were written for our learning, that through pa-
tience and through comfort of the Scriptures we might have
hope." This, of course, could not have been the intention
of the instrumental authors. David sang when his heart
was full, Jeremiah prophesied when the fire burned in his
bones. Thus this intention is thought of as in the " mind of
the first author," and it is only by divine direction, that the
Scriptures are thus predestined to realize their given pur-
pose in the Church of all the ages. This is applied not only
to moral and doctrinal dicta, but also to the historical parts.
" Do ye not hear the Old Testament (rov vo/xov') ? " Paul
asks in Gal. iv. 22 ; " For it is written, that Abraham had
two sons"; and of this he says: "Which things contain an
allegory," i.e. a meaning was hidden in all this, which was
neither foreseen nor intended by him who wrote these words.
The same appears in Heb. v. 11, 12, where the exposition of
the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek is introduced,
an exposition in which numerous deductions are made from
the common historic narrative, Avhich were not intended by
the writer of Genesis. The understanding of this deeper
sense is called in verse 11 "hard of interpretation"; it does


not lie at hand, and deeper insight only discovers it. And
yet, this deeper insight is no play of magic with the word.
One may readily acquire it if only one is not dull of hearing.
If one is but mature, he is able of himself to enjoy this
strong meat, for they "by reason of use have their senses
exercised." It is therefore a mysterious meaning not in-
cluded in it by the writer, but by the Holy Spirit, which now
from behind is revealed by that same Holy Spirit to those
who are perfect. A no less broadly prepared example of this
is given in 1 Cor. x. 1-18, where a spiritual-typical significance
is attached to the crossing of the Red Sea and to the events
in the wilderness, which could not have been intended by the
writer of the narrative. That meaning was beyond him,
and directed itself from the mind of the primary author to
us " upon whom the ends of the ages are come." Now only,
because the antitypical has come, can the typical be under-

It can scarcely be denied, therefore, that in the apostolic
circle, the conviction was prevalent that, without contro-
A'ersy, the Old Testament had come into existence as a
sacred codex by Divine inspiration, and must be viewed as
clothed with Divine authority. This shows that Jesus, Avho
knew this conviction, did not contradict it, but put His seal
upon it in His intercourse with His disciples. The apostolic
use of the Old Testament tends to give us a better knowl-
edge of Jesus' judgment concerning this codex, and, so far
as in Jesus the self-testimony of the Scripture expresses
itself most clearly and correctly, to make us know how the
Scripture itself desires us to esteem it. The different objec-
tions that have been raised against this apostolic use of the]
Old Testament, particularly upon the ground of Gal. iv. 21- '
24 and 1 Cor. x. 1-13, cannot here be examined. The ques-
tion, indeed, what use the apostles have made of the Old J
Testament, is not critical but historic. The critical exami-
nation, therefore, of these objections is not in place in Ency-
clopedia, but in the disciplina canonica. One objection,
however, may be considered here, because it really sheds light
upon the use made by the apostles of the Holy Scripture of


the Old Testament. Their quotations are b}^ no means always
a literal translation of the original. This would create no
surprise if they had not understood Hebrew, but it does with
a man like Paul, who was well versed in the original text.
The fact that they wrote in Greek to Greek-speaking churches
is, from the nature of the case, no sufficient explanation.
This, no doubt, explains why as a rule they followed the
Greek translation which they knew was in use among their
readers, but states no ground for their own departure from
the original, nor yet for their following of that translation
in places where it was incorrect. They who think that
the writers of the apostolic circle wrote without assistance
(suo Marte), can scarcely come to any other conclusion
than that this mode of procedure was faulty and rested
upon mistake, either voluntary or involuntary, but in no
case pardonable. The matter assumes an entirely differ-
ent aspect, however, when one starts out from the posi-
tion that these writers themselves were inspired in a way
analogous to the writers whose text they quoted. He who
cites the language of another must quote literally, but a
writer who quotes himself is bound to the actual content
only, and not to the form of what he wrote, except in the
face of a third party. If, therefore, it is the same Holy
Spirit who spoke through the prophets and inspired the
apostles, it is the same primary author (auctor primarius)
who, by the apostles, quotes hiinself^ and is therefore entirely
justified in repeating his original meaning in application to
the case for which the quotation is made, in a somewhat
modified form, agreeably to the current translation. Suppose
an oration you have delivered has been translated into Eng-
lish, and that you appear before an American audience which
knows your position only from that English translation, will
it not be natural, in so far as your original meaning comports
with that translation, to quote from what your audience
knows ? Any one would ; and to do so is logical. And,
therefore, from this point of view, there is nothing strange
in it that in the apostolic circle the auctor primarius quotes
from his own words agreeably to the accepted translated text.


No one else could do tliis but the author himself, since he is
both authorized and competent to guard against false inter-
pretations of his original meaning.

The citation from Psalm xl. 6 in Heb. x. 5 may still fur-
ther explain this. The translation which is here given is
undoubtedly borrowed from the LXX., and it is equally cer-
tain that the translation of the LXX. is faulty and corrupted
in the copies, either by the change of cotlu, or, as others
assert, by that of crrofMa into crcofxa. D'^JIK is not acofia, but
WTM or wra. Must it be said, that the reading aco/xa indi-
cates another thought? Most assuredly, if one translates
'h ST^D D"']1K as given in the Dutch version: "Mine ears
hast thou pierced," in the sense in which the willing slave
was pinned through the ear to the doorpost of his lord. This
translation, however, is absolutely untenable, simply because
this never could or can be said of the CJIX (ears) in the
dual. The only correct translation is : Mine ears hast thou
digged, in the sense of opened, i.e. Thou hast prepared me
for the service of obedience. For this thought the expres-
sion "a body hast thou prepared me" would do just as well,
after the rule of the "whole for the part." If my thumb
is hurt, I can use three forms of expression : m}^ thumb is
wounded, my finger is wounded, or my hand is hurt. For
the preparation of the ear can be put : the preparation of the
body; provided both are taken in the sense that this, physico-
symbolically, points to spiritual obedience, which is also to
be accomplished in outward things. That in Heb. x, 5, body
is taken in this sense appears from verse 9, where the exegesis
from Fs. xl. 7 is used: " Lo, I come to do thy will," i.e.
to obey. And that it is intended as the actual explanation
of the "a body hast thou prepared me," appears from the
additional words : " He taketh away the first (the burnt
offerings and offerings for sin) that He may establish the
second (the complete sacrifice of obedience)." The atoning
act of Christ's sacrifice lay not in the crucifixion of His body
by itself, but in His ivill to obey; as it is expressly stated in
verse 10: by which will (not by which body) we have been
sanctified. The question whether the following, " through


the offering of the body of Jesus Christ," does not refer 1>ack
to the body in verse 5, can never be answered with certainty.
Even if this inference is accepted, it can never follow from
this that in verse 5 the incarnation, i.e. the providing of the
body for His self-sacrifice, is meant. Rather the contrary ;
for the exegesis which, as we saw, makes verse 9 follow
immediately upon verse 8, affirms the opposite. The unde-
niable fault in the translation, or at least in the copies, lent
itself easily to express, nevertheless, the original meaning of
the first author in Ps. xl. 6, and this accounts for the fact

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 42 of 64)