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that in a Greek copy this Greek reading does not need to
be changed necessarily to the letter according to the Hebrew
requirement, but can be taken as being equal in sense and
thought to the original. This would have been indeed unlaw-
ful in common quotation by another, but offers not the least
difficulty since the auctor prhnarius of Ps. xl. and Heb. x. is
one and the same. An observation, from which at the same
time it appears how, in the apostolic circle, they did not
represent to themselves the authority of the Scripture as a
petrified power, but as a power flowing forth from an ever-
vital authority, carrying and ever accompanying the entire
Scripture. It presented itself differently to them than to
us. For us this inspiration belongs to the past ; it is an
ended matter ; we ourselves stand outside of it. In the
same way the Sanhedrin were under the impression that
inspiration had died out for as many as four centuries. In
the apostolic circle, on the other hand, by Jesus' promise that
the Holy Ghost would resume his working, they were pre-
pared to entertain a different view, and after the day of Pen-
tecost they actually lived in another reality. They perceived
that this same wondrous power, which had worked in former
times and the product of which was the Scripture, had re-
sumed its action, even though in a different way. By this
the apostolic circle lived in the Scripture as in a part of its
own life. This broke the barrenness of the mechanical con-
tact, and caused the organic contact to resume its liberating
process ; and it is in this way that subjectively, from the
side of the apostles, their liberty in the use of Scripture is


explained, as we explained it objectively from the identity of
the author in the quotation and in what was quoted.

§ 79. Significance of this Result for the Old Testament

The period in which the opponents of the Ciiiistian con-
fession exegetically misrepresented the Scriptures, in such a
way that at length they were said to contain their opinions, is
irrevocably past. In controversies of a sectarian character,
such dogmatic exegesis may still be resorted to ; in the con-
flict for or against the Christ as the Son of God, this weapon
is worn out. Negation has destroyed the gain of this untrue
position, and now feels itself sufficiently strong to continue
the undermining of orthodox Christendom without the assist-
ance of the authority of the Scripture. This we consider no
loss, since it has rendered the position clear and free. The
first result is, that one begins by granting that orthodoxy is
correct in a most important point, which formerly was com-
bated and derided. Only remember what material was gath-
ered by the waning rationalistic-supranaturalistic period, by
which to prove, in an amusingly learned way, that in the Holy
Scripture Christ appeared nowhere as a Divine person, and
that there was as little mention in the Scripture of a vicari-
ous sacrifice made for sinners. This was altogether a churchly
dogma, but no representation of Scripture ; and thus the hope-
less task was undertaken to exegete all such mysteries out of
the Scripture. The authority of Christ or of the apostles
stood too high at the time, in public estimation, to be put
aside or to be defied. In order to obtain a hearing for one's
"free" ideas, it was necessary, at the time, to press the argu-
ment that the churchly representation was forced upon Christ
and His apostles, but that, on a more accurate exegesis, it
appeared to be foreign to the Scripture. Whatever of pro-
test was entered against this, from the side of the orthodox,
was commonly said to have neither rhyme nor reason. It
was soon treated with ridicule ; and in some inconceivable
way the opinion became prevalent that, in all honesty, Jesus
and His apostles had fostered those very same ideas, which
eighteen centuries later, in a jaded period of enervated theo-


logical thought, were sold off as the newest sample of reli-
gious wisdom. If you pass from the period of negation of
that time to view its present phase, you observe that this
breastwork, cast up with so much exertion, is entirely de-
serted, and that literally no one defends any longer the rep-
resentation which was then generally accepted. On the
contrary, opponents and supporters of orthodoxy are now
fairly well agreed that, in that earlier conflict, upon exegeti-
cal ground, the orthodox exegetes were right, and that the
Scripture, as it lies before us, really preaches those mysteries
then so sharply antagonized.

This has not been granted, of course, with the purpose of
accepting those mysteries. This recognition was arrived at
only after men had become well assured that nothing was to be
derived from it in the interest of the truth of those mysteries.
Now it was said that the Scripture itself must be aban-
doned, and that these mysteries had not been promulgated
by the Christ, but were attributed to Him by Scripture docu-
ments of later composition. A da ca-po^ indeed, of the an-
cient assertion ; only with this difference, that in the earlier
period battle was given in the domain of the Scripture, and
now it was turned against that Scripture itself. And when
this failed of providing a conception of the Christ which
divested him of all supernatural elements, they have now
even wrested themselves sufficiently free from his moral au-
thority, boldly to declare that a certain circle of conceptions
belonged indeed to Jesus, which nevertheless have ceased
to be true to us. But even this implies for us a twofold
gain. First, the gain that, now we may see what the ten-
dency of the earlier exegetical attack on Christendom was,
and that in the main the exegesis of the orthodox was cor-
rect. And secondly, there is the gain that it is no longer
denied that Jesus and His apostles entertained concep-
tions concerning several mysteries, which exhibit a clear
relationship to the orthodox confession — a fact which is
particularly granted with respect to the conception of
Jesus and His apostles concerning the Old Covenant. Aside
from the question whether the further development of the


dogma of inspiration does not diverge from that concep-
tion in more than one particular, and in so far stands
in need of correction, no one at present will deny that in
the circle of Jesus and His apostles there was a current
conception, gainsaid by none, which assigned to the Old
Testament, as a Holy Book, a normative authority. Even
those who think that the portrait of Jesus, as the New
Testament delineates it, allows us only with difficulty to
form an idea of the figure of the Rabbi of Nazareth which
lurks behind it, confess that Jesus cannot be represented
in any other way than as having adopted at this point
the current opinion of pious Israelites of His times. Even
the accommodation theory has long since been abandoned.
But after the frank confession that Jesus shared that
conception, this fact is emptied of its significance by the
simple statement that Jesus' opinion on this point has no
value, — that He Himself, no less than His contemporaries,
has simply been mistaken. Hence the confession of the
fact has only become possible at the price of respect for
Jesus' person. As long as this respect was retained, the fact
could not be granted. Since this respect has been lost, the
confession is freely made.

This reveals at the same time the weighty consideration
which this confession puts in the scale for him who finds
this respect for Christ as the Son of God in the depths of
his soul, and to whom, therefore, Jesus shines in the full
glory of the divine mystery. Can He have been — mistaken,
mistaken — with respect to holiest things, in what must
be to us the ground and source of our faith ! Mistaken
also, therefore, in assigning, on the basis of the Scripture,
a high Messianic character to Himself ! But the very idea is
incompatible with the confession of Jesus' Divine nature.
Erring in what is holy is no mere failure in intellect, but
betrays a state of ruin of one's whole inner being. In the
sinner, therefore, a mistake is natural, but not in one who is
holy. Hence, here you face a dilemma, from the stress of
which there is no escape. One of two things must follow :
either, if in the centrum of what is holy Jesus took His stand


upon a lying conception, then He Himself had no instinct for
the truth, was not God manifest in the flesh, and could not
even have been the purely sinless man ; or, if He was " the
Christ, the Son of the living God," in all things like our-
selves, sin excepted, then whatever He sealed as true in the
centrum of what was holj^ must also be true to him who
thus believes in his Saviour. Nothing can here be put in
between. As long as the effort was prosecuted to prove that
Jesus shared the view of the Scripture of the Old Testament
held by the more liberal tendency at the beginning of
this century, inspiration could be abandoned without the
loss of one's Christ. Since, on the other hand, this effort
has suffered total shipwreck, and since it is, and must be,
historically acknowledged that Christ viewed the Scripture
in about the same way in which the Church of all ages has
done this in her symbols, the conflict against this view of
the Scripture has become directly a conflict against the Christ
Himself. He who breaks in principle with that ancient view
of the Scripture cuts the cord of faith, which bound him
to that Christ as his Lord and his God. And he who can-
not refrain from kneeling low before his Saviour cannot break
with the ground of faith in the Scripture, as Jesus Himself
has sealed it.

The tendency, which becomes more and more manifest, to
withdraw oneself from the Scripture into an individualistic
mysticism and from the Christ to go back to the Holy Spirit,
cannot be maintained for one moment by a worshipper of
Christ in the face of the fact that Jesus acknowledged the
Scripture. For, even though we take them as historical
witnesses merely, the Scriptures of the New Testament
afford abundant proof that Christ knew this mysticism of
the Holy Spirit and honored it, but even in the Gospel
of John, in which this mysticism is most often mentioned,
almost more strongly than in the S3'noptics, you find the
conviction of Jesus expressed that He is bound to the Script-
ures ; bound not only for His conceptions, but bound for His
person, for the program of His life and passion, and for the
future of glory which awaits Him. Hence the desire to


remain orthodox in one's Christology, and so far as the way
of knowledge is concerned to withdraw oneself into mj'stical
territory, in order to be able to make concessions in the domain
of the Scripture-question, is the fruit of lack of thought, a
measuring with two measures, and self-contradiction. The
question is more serious than is surmised by this well-mean-
ing orthodoxy. The conflict, which is begun in order to rob j
us of the Scripture as Holy Scripture, can have no other!
tendency than to rob us of the Christ. If the Holy Script-
ure qua talis falls, then Jesus was a man and nothing more,
who was mistaken in the centrum of what was holy, and
who consequently can neither escape from the fellowship of
sin, nor yet in what is holiest and tenderest be your absolute

It is not true that on this point there could be error in
Jesus, without detriment to His person and His character as
authority in what is holy. In history entirely innocent
inaccuracies are certainly possible, which, so far from doing
harm, rather bring to light the free utterance of life above
notarial mannerism. But of this character, Jesus' error |
could have been least of all. For three reasons. In the
first place, because, if the historical-critical school is right,
there is not merely a dispute about the author and the origin
of several books, but in the Old Testament you frequently
encounter deceit and falsehood. There are not only sev-
eral representations of facts and events which are fictitious,
but many pretensions, also, to Divine revelation which are
feigned, and the intrusion of writings under other names
which are nothing but "prophecies after the event," but
which nevertheless present themselves as authentic prophecy.
Whether this deceit and this falsehood is the personal work
of one individual or the result of tradition, makes no differ-
ence ; falsehood does not cease to be falsehood if it is gener-
ated gradually in the course of time. And however much one
may talk of " pious fraud," even that can only be represented
as free from deceit when the rule is adopted that the end
sanctifies the means. Grant that you may make no scientific
claims on Jesus, which fall outside of the scope of His person


and time, may this ever authorize one to deny Him also the
instinct for truth ? And yet He must have been entirely
devoid of this instinct, if He could have taken such a struct-
ure of fictitious and designedly untrue representations as the
ground of that truth, which He confessed and for which He

In the second place, such error could not have been in-
nocently made for the reason stated above, viz. that Jesus
accepted the entire program of His life at the hand of the
Scripture. The Old Testament Scripture had a meaning for
Jesus which it could have had for no other, either before or
after Him. From the fatal standpoint of an error no other
conclusion can be formed than that in the program of the
'Ebed Jahvah, of the Messiah, and of the man of sorrows
Jesus wrongly saw the plan of His own existence, public
appearance, passion and glory, and that He labored under an
illusion when, on the ground of the Scripture, He conformed
Himself to this. His great life-work, then, is no result of a
Divine impulse, but a role in a drama which He found
projected by some one else, and of which He imagined Him-
self to be the chief actor. Thus if this error is granted,
it entails with it a condemnation of Jesus' whole interpreta-
tion of His task. Not only His interpretation of the Script-
ure, but His entire position in history has then been one
mistake. He then has walked in a dream. A beautiful
dream wrought into His phantasy by the Old Testament.
By this, however. His life and sacrifice forfeit the serious
character of being a moral reality sprung from God.

And the third reason, why the idea of an innocent mistake
cannot be entertained, is evident from the very conflict of
our times. At first the Old Testament was antagonized by
means of the New, in order on ethical grounds to exhibit
the lower standard of the Old. The religious and ethical
representations of the Old Testament must be repelled, in
order that Christ and the New Testament might find an
entrance as the principium of what was higher and holier.
Now one does not hesitate on the ground of his own religious
and moral sense to apply his criticism to Christ and the New


Testament. But even if we pass this second suggestion by,
it is alleged that in the centrum of the religious and moral
life there yawns an abyss between the Old Testament and
the Christ. Notwithstanding all this the attempt is being
made to make it appear as though it had merely been an
innocent mistake in Christ that for eighteen centuries by
precept and example He has bound His followers and con-
fessors to the authority of that Old Testament. But is it
not absurd to qualify in the Founder of your religion, as
Jesus is called, as of no importance a mistake which for ages
has led millions upon millions astray, and still continues to
do this ? We may safely prophesy that after not many days
the stress of the dilemma, which we here face, will be real-
ized and generally acknowledged. Either Jesus' view of the
Scripture is the true one, and then we should kneel in His
presence ; or Jesus' view of the Scripture is one enormous
mistake, in which case the Rabbi of Nazareth can no longer
be the absolute guide along the way of faith.

We accept this dilemma the sooner since it determines
most definitely our point of departure. There are two kinds
of people, thus we wrote, in or outside of the circle of palin-
genesis, and connected therewith there are two kinds of con-
sciousness, subjectively with or without illumination, and
objectively with or without Holy Scripture. Applied to the
above-named dilemma, this affirms: That if by palingenesis
you stand vitally related to the Christ as "the head of the
body," the relation between your consciousness and the Holy
Scripture is born from this of itself. But if that relation of
the palingenesis does not bind you to the Christ of (xod as
head of the body of the new humanity, you cannot kneel
before Him in worship, neither can the Scripture be to you a
Holy Scripture. The scientific form, in which your confes-
sion of the Scripture will cast itself, we do not consider here.
No one, able to think and to ponder, has ever come either to
palingenesis, to faith in the Christ as the Son of God, or
to the acceptance of the Scripture, as the result of scientific
investigation. Faith is of a different kind, and can never
be plucked as fruit from the branches of science. Faith

460 §80. THE INSPIRATION OF [Div. Ill

in, as well as the rejection of, the Christ and the Scripture,
i.e. of a Logos embodied in tlie flesh and embodied in writ-
ing (ev<TapK(i>fievo^ and 677/30^09), springs from the root of
our spiritual existence. Hence it cannot be that by nature
every one accepts the Christ and the Holy Scripture. The
antithesis cannot remain wanting between those who believe
and reject. It lies in the very nature of every intervenient
process, which does not find its rise in the natural princi-
pium of the creation, but in a special principium that is bent
upon recreation. The very nature of special grace brings
with it that by one it must be accepted, but also by another
be rejected. Faith cannot belong to all. As soon as rejec-
tion stands no longer over against faith, special grace has
reached its end, and by the parousia passes over into the
then glorified natural principium. This was not felt for
many years, because faith on the Scripture floated on tradi-
tion only, and became thereby unspiritual. The apostasy
from the Christ and from the Scripture is therefore nothing else
than the falling away from this traditional position, which for
a long time had no more spiritual root. Now only, thanks to
the simultaneous conflict against Christ and the Scripture,
the great dictum, that Christ is set for the rising up but also
for the falling of many (Luke ii. 34), also for those who are
outside of Israel, begins to be realized as truth.

§ 80. The Inspiration of the New Testament

The Scripture of the New Testament is not so directly
covered by the authority of Christ and His apostles as that
of the Old Covenant. The Law and the Prophets formed
a Scripture which already existed, and concerning which,
therefore, Jesus' verdict and use can give a final explanation ;
but the New Testament did not yet exist, and therefore could
not be subjected to judgment in the circle of Jesus. The
absolute and immediate authority which the Bishop of
Rome claims as vicar of Christ and head of the Church lacks
the Divine seal, which it needs in order to impress the
Divine stamp upon the Scripture of the New Testament.
The absolute authority necessary for such a sealing, outside


of US, is here wanting. Our fixed point of departure, there-
fore, does not lie in the Neiv, but in the Old, Testament.
The Old Testament is to us the fixed point of support, and the
New cannot legitimate itself other than as the complement
and crown of the Old, postulated by the Old, assumed and
prophesied by Christ, actually come, and by the continuity
of faith accepted in the Church of Christ. A certain paral-
lel with the standing of the authority of the Old Testament
Ijefore Jesus' appearance is here not to be denied. Even
though Jesus' decisive witness concerning the Scripture then
in existence lays for us the firmest objective foundation on
which its authority rests, it may nevertheless not be lost
from sight that respect for this authority did not originate
first by means of Jesus' coming, but was already preva-
lent before He was manifest in the flesh. Christ had merely
to connect Himself with what existed, and put His seal to
an authority that was universally recognized. The authority
of the Scripture of the Old Covenant arose of itself even as
that of the New Testament. It was, as Jesus found it, the
result of organic factors which had worked in upon the
people of God in the Old Dispensation ; an authority which
only gradually had been firmly established, and did not main-
tain itself in an absolute sense, except through conflict and
strife, over against the pretension of the Apocrypha and
other influential writings, but at length prevailed univer-
sally within a sharply bounded domain. As a parallel to the
rise of the authority of the New Testament this is of value
to us, because it shows that such an authority can establish
itself gradually by psychical factors and in organic connec-
tion with the life of the people of God, and in such a way
that the Christ ratifies it afterwards as an entirely lawful
and valid authority. From this the possibility also is evi-
dent that in a proper way, without outward legitimation,
such an authority may be imposed as of itself, and that after-
wards it can appear to have been entirely lawfully estab-
lished. Thus there is nothing strange in it, that in a
similarly unmarked way the Scripture of the New Testament
gradually acquired the authority which it has since exercised.

462 § 80. THE INSPIRATION OP [Div. Ill

From the psychological point of view the process of the rise
of this authority, both with the New and with the Old
Testament, is one. The description of this process is the
task of the science of Canonics, and therefore lies outside of
our scope. But the inner necessity needs to be indicated
with which the Old called for the New Testament, and how
this necessity has been universally realized.

We begin with the latter. Consider then how difficult it
must have been at first for the pious mind, to add to the
Holy Scripture, consisting as it then did of the Old Testa-
ment, a new part, with the claim of equal authority. An
absolute boundary line separated the Old Testament from
every other writing. Even the conflict with the Apocrypha
had ceased. And now the idea arises, of placing all sorts
of other writings, which lack every mark of antiquity, and
are of very recent date, on a line with this Holy Script-
ure, even with respect to authority, and yet this idea meets
with no opposition, but enters as of itself ; and while at the
same time all sorts of other writings are circulated, one sees
in the main very soon a boundary line drawn between what
commends itself as clothed with that authority, and what
does not. What are one hundred years in such a process
of spiritual development? And not much more than one
century has passed after Jesus' ascension, before a com-
plement for the Old Testament has formed itself, begins to
run by its side, finds recognition, and comes into sacred use.
And this went on so unobservedly and of itself, that al-
though all sorts of controversies arose concerning the ques-
tion, whether this or that book should be adopted, yet of
a fundamental controversy against the idea itself, of adding
a New Testament to the Old, there is absolutely no trace
discoverable. Reaction against this idea as such proceeded,
and very reasonably, from the side of the Jews alone, but
was not even suggested in the circle of the Christians.
They were as controversial then as we are now, and there
is no difference, however small, dogmatic, ethic, or ecclesias-
tic, but has been fought for and against from the beginning.
But no trace of any significance appears anywhere of opposi-


tion to the idea itself, that a new Scripture should be added
to the Old. Hyperspiritualism may have reacted against
all Scripture, New as well as Old; but that cannot claim
our attention here : we speak simply of those, who, while
loyally subject to the authority of the Old Testament, faced
the question whether or no a second Scripture, clothed with

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 43 of 64)