Abraham Kuyper.

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order. Ecstasy is distinguished from vision in degree of
intensity, but not in kind. As soon as the action of the
visionary power communicates itself to the motory nerves,
and consequently withdraws the muscular action from the
will of the person, ecstatic conditions follow, which according


to the intensity of the action exerted, are weak in impulse or
overwhelming in their pressure. A single word is needed
here concerning HS'ltt (Mar'ah, vision), which does not stand
on a line with Htn^ (Mach'zeh, vision). The mar'ah is to be
distinguished from the cliazon, in so far that the mar'ah seldom
plays any part in the sphere of psychic-visions, and rather
indicates the seeing of a 7'eality which reveals itself. Chazah
is a gazing at something that requires effort, and in so far
indicates the psychical weariness which the seeing of visions
occasioned, while Ra'ah of itself indicates nothing more than
the perception of what passes before us. When a Mar eh
appears, the seeing of this form or image is called the Mar ah.
Special mention of this Mar' all occurs with Moses. After
him no prophet arose (Dent, xxxiv. 10) " whom the Lord
knew face to face"; and since this "face to face" is chosen
by the holy apostle, by which to express the immediate
knowledge of the blessed, with Moses also it must be taken
to mean a seeing of the reality of heavenly things. In Num-
bers xii. 6-8 it is said in so many words, that the Lord
reveals Himself to other prophets in a vision or in a dream,
but "my servant Moses is not so." With him the Lord
speaks "mouth to mouth, even apparently (HS!'^'?!), and not
in dark speeches ; and the similitude (HJIXSri) of the Lord
shall he behold." ^ We need not enter here upon a study of the
character of this appearing of Jehovah, but we may say that
this is no seeing in the visionary condition, but rather the
falling away of the curtain behind which heavenl}" realities
withdraw themselves from our gaze. This was a temporary
return of the relation in which sinless man in paradise saw
his God. Not continuously, but only in those moments
in which it pleased the Lord to reveal Himself to Moses
" with open face." A form of revelation which, of course, had
nothing in common with the Christophany or Angelophany.

1 It is noteworthy that nx-\:; is here used for common vision. A devia-
tion, which comes under the general rule, that a sharply drawn distinction
of conceptions and a consenuent constant usage of words is foreign to the


In this pregnant sense the Vision forms of itself the tran-
sition from the subjective to the objective means of revelation.
Distinction can here again be made to a certain extent
between such mediums of revelation (media revelationis) as
were present in the ordinary course of life, and those others
which in a supernatural way proceed from the special prin-
cipium ; even though it is self-evident that it is by no means
always possible for us to draw the boundary-line sharj)ly
between the two. In itself, the birth of a person is a
common event; but when such a person is set apart and
anointed from the womb to a holy calling, in this ver}-
birth already mingles the working of the special principium.
These objective means of revelation must claim our attention
here, because they also were made ancillary to inspiration.
This appears most forcibly in the case of the Christophany
and Angelophany, which is never silent, but always tends at
the same time to reveal to man what was hidden in God. This
applies also to the signs (mm>?) in the widest sense, because
all these, the ordinary as well as the extraordinary, the per-
manent as well as the transient, uttered audible speech^ or
tended to support a given revelation, to explain or to confirm
it. The field for this should therefore be taken as broadly as
possible. The whole appearing of Israel and its historic
experiences must here be brought to mind : all the difhcul-
ties between Israel and its neighbors ; the national conditions
which the Lord called into life in and about Israel ; the
covenant with His people ; the persons which the Lord
raised up in Israel and put in the foreground; the natural
phenomena which Israel observed ; the diseases that were
plagues to the people ; the tabernacle and temple-service,
— in short, everything comprised in the rich, full life that
developed itself in Israel. To this is added as a second factor,
but woven into the first, that series of extraordinary actions,
appearances and events which we are mistakenly wont to
view exclusively as miracles. It was vmder the broad and
overwhelming impression of this past, of this nation as a
whole, and of these events, that he grew up who was called
to extend the revelation, and was trained for that revelation ;


which education was still more definitely accentuated by
personal surroundings and experiences.

But besides this general service which the objective phe-
nomena rendered, both the ordinary and the extraordinary,
they tended at the same time, by inspiration, to reveal the
thoughts of God to the agents of His revelation. This
aj^plies especially to the whole utterance of nature, in so far
as the veil, which by sin was put upon nature and upon our
eyes, was largely lifted in that higher life-circle of Israel, so
that the language of nature concerning "the glory of the
Lord, which fiUeth the whole earth, " was again both seen and
heard. It will not do to view the revelation of the power of
God in nature as an outcome of mechanical inspiration. It was
established organically, in connection with what the messengers
of God both saw and observed in nature. This revelation
assumes a different character, when the "rainbow," the
" starry heavens," and the " sand of the seashore " are em-
ployed, not as natural phenomena, but in their symbolical
significance with respect to a definite thought of God. Only
then does that which is common in itself become a sign; as, for
instance, when Jesus points His disciples to the golden corn-
fields, and speaks of " the fields, that are white for the har-
vest." The speech, which in this sense goes forth from the
common phenomena of nature, can thus be strengthened by
the extraordinary intensity of their manifestations ; as, for
instance, the thunder in Ps. xxix. has become the voice
of the Lord — the lightning-bolt, more intensively violent in
Ps. xviii., the mighty storm-wind of Habakkuk iii., or these
three together upon Horeb. This significance can also be
emphasized by their strikingly noticeable succession, as in
1 Kings xix. 10-12. Striking events, like that meeting
with Melchizedek upon Abraham's return from war with
the mountainous tribes, may give, as here appears, an
entire series of thoughts from the revelation of God. What
is common in itself can become a sign, simply because
prophesied beforehand (for instance, 1 Sam. x. T). And,
finally, all sorts of things that were common in themselves
can obtain a significance by their combinations or positions,


such as the tabernacle, together with all the things that
belonged to the sacred cultus ; the memorial stones in Jordan ;
the boards which Isaiah put up in the market-place ; the
scrolls of the law and Tephilloth, and even the iron pan of
Ezekiel. With all these things and phenomena, common in
themselves, the " sign " originates ; either because God at-
taches a definite significance to them, or because they derive
that significance from history or from attending circumstances.
And it is not so much these things themselves, but much
more the significance, original or given to them, which,
understood by faith or indicated by a special inworking of
the Holy Spirit, rendered service as an instrument to reveal
and to inspire the thought of God.

This applied in still stronger measure to those extraordi-
nary phenomena and events which are called "wonders"
(n2'lS3), or, in narrower sense, are spoken of as wonderful
works (Niphleoth). The root from which these spring
has been spoken of in connection with our study of the
special principium, and the effort to explain them subjectively
may be said to have been abandoned. If it is entirely true
that they mostly fell to the share of believers, and that
unbelievers sometimes did not see what believers saw very
clearly, this affords not the least ground to subjectivize
the miracles as such, after the intention of the Holy Script-
ure. Together with those single wonders, which one ob-
served and another not, there are a number of others, which
revealed themselves with an overwhelming impression to all
that were present. Just remember the exodus from Egypt
and the miracles in the wilderness. Again, it may not be
forgotten that the simple presence of a fact is not enough to
cause it to be perceived. As often as our mind is abstracted,
and our attention refuses its action, it occurs that something
is said or done in our presence which escapes our notice. Of
this, therefore, nothing more need be said. All these medi-
tation-theories have had their day, and nothing remains
except the absolute denial of the miracle on one hand, and
on the other hand the frank confession of its reality. Mean-
while, in the matter of inspiration, we are less concerned about


the reality of the miracle, or the general revelation of God's
power, which it reveals, than about the sense, thought, or
significance which hides in these "wonderful works." In
those miracles and signs there also lies a language, and in the
matter of inspiration that language claims our attention.
This peculiar language lies in all the phenomena and events
which are extraordinary ; and therefore no distinction need
here be made between the Theophanies, the miracles in
nature, the miracles of healing and of destruction, etc. In
all these miracles a thought of God lies expressed, and in the
matter of inspiration that thought of God is the principal
interest. For this reason, however, the reality should not
be looked upon for a moment as accidental or indifferent.
Without that reality even thought misses its ground in God,
and it is by this very union and combination of to o^ with the
mind that thought receives its ratification, and comes to us,
not as an idea suggested by ourselves, but as a communica-
tion from God to us. The principal thought in all miracles
now is the thought of redemption. When the existing order
of things distresses us, and turns us pessimistic, and places
nature with its curse over against us and above us, as a power
against which all resistance is vain, the miracle proclaims
that that power is not the highest, that the heavens of brass
above us can be opened, and that there is still another reality,
entirely different from this order of things, which does not
clash with our moral aspirations, but is in harmony with
them. The world, such as it became by the curse, and now
is, under the tempering of that curse by common grace-,
offends the only fixed point which the sinner retains in
his moral consciousness, viz. his sense of right. Wrong tri-
umphs again and again, while innocence suffers. Between
the hidden life and outward conditions there is no harmony,
such as our sense of right postulates. It is this problem
which presented itself with great force in Israel, and for
which no solution is given except in the miracles. The
miracles voice a palingenesis which, first in the psychical
and after that in the physical world, sliall hereafter dis-
solve all dissonance in entire harmony. Every miracle is a


real prophecy of the parousia and of the restitution of all things
which it introduces. The miracle is the basis of the hope, in
that entirely peculiar significance which in Scripture it has
along y^iih. faith and love. It shows that something different
is possible, and prophesies that such it shall sometime he.
It is an utterance of that free, divine art, by which the
supreme artist, whose work of creation is broken, announces
the entire restoration of his original work of art, even in its
ideal completion. Hence there can be no question of a "vio-
lation of the order of nature." This assumes that this order
of nature has obtained an independent existence outside of
God, and that at times God interferes with this independent
order of things. Every such representation is deistic at
heart, and in fact denies the immanent and omnipresent om-
nipotence by which God supports the whole cosmos from
moment to moment, and every order in that cosmos. The
miracle, therefore, may not be interpreted as being anything
else than an utterance of the special principium, taken as
principium essendi. An utterance which, preformative and
preparative, and thereby at the same time annunciatory,
views and ends in the parousia. The Niphleoth, therefore,
include the spiritual as well as the material miracles. They
react savingly against sin as well as against the misery which
flows from sin.

Hence the miracles are no disconnected phenomena, but
stand in connection with each other, and, as was shown above,
they form one organic whole, the centre of which is Christ
as the " Wonderful " and its circumference His people. The
great central miracle, therefore, is the Incarnation, which in
turn lies foreshadowed in the Christophanies. With those
Christophanies the manifestation consisted in this, that, as in
paradise God had created the body of Adam, He likewise here
provided a human body, which presently returned to nothing,
and merely served to render the appearance as of a man pos-
sible. In the plains of Mamre Abraham does not perceive at
first that he is dealing with anything else than a common
human occurrence. Even where angel appearances are spoken
of, we may not represent angels as winged beings. . Angels


have no bodies; they are spirits; and they appear with wings
only in the symbolic representation of the vision. In real
appearances they always stand before us in the form of a man.
All this, however, was altogether outside our nature. It gave
us to see what was like unto our nature, not what was of our
nature. Thus Christ is the "Wonderful" (Is. ix. 6), and in
connection with this there arranges itself about His person
the whole miracle-cyclus of His baptism, the temptation in the
wilderness, the transfiguration upon Tabor, the voice in the
temple, the angel in Gethsemane, the signs at the cross,
the resurrection and the ascension, in order to be succeeded
by the second miracle-cyclus of the parousia. In like manner
we see that entire series of Niphleoth, or mighty works,
going out from Christ and becoming established by Him in
the sphere of the elements, in the vegetable kingdom, in the
animal kingdom, and among men — a series of miracles, the
afterglow of which still gleams in the miracles of the apostles.
Peter, indeed, testifies (Acts iii. 16) that the authorship of
the healing of the crij^ple lay in Christ.

In this organic connection the one group of miracles ap-
pears before us which is immediately connected with Christ.
To this is joined a second group of miracles which does not
point to the Christ, but to the appearance and the mainte-
nance of His people. The fixed point in this group is the
miraculous birth of Isaac, placed in the foreground as the
great "wonder" by Paul in Rom. iv. 17 sq. What lies
behind this merely serves to prepare the ground, and render
the appearance of God's people possible. Only by the call-
ing of Abraham and the birth of Isaac, when he and Sarah
had become physically incapable of procreation, is this people
born upon this prepared ground, and come to its incarna-
tion. This was the great mystery. After this follows in the
second place the miracle-cyclus of Egypt, of the wilderness,
and of the taking of Canaan. Then the miracles which
group themselves about Elijah and Elisha in conflict with
the worship of Baal. And finally the group of miracles
which, outside of Canaan, is seen in the midst of the
heathen, when the great conflict between Israel and the


nations was temporarily ended with, the apparent destruc-
tion of Israel, as with its Golgotha.

Of course it extends beyond the lines of our task to
work out more fully this concentric exposition of miracles.
We merely wanted to show that in this entire phenomenon
of miracles there lies one continuous manifestation of the
great predominant thought of Redemption. This manifesta-
tion by itself was not enough to cause the thought that
expressed itself in it to be understood and to be transmitted.
To the "handling with hands" (yjrrjXacjidv) of 1 John i. 1 is
added the " seeing " (Oewpelv), and it is only by that seeing
that insight is obtained into the meaning and significance of
the miracle. So much, however, is evident that the sight of
these several miracles, or the reading of the narrative, counts
among the means used by God in the revelation of Himself
to the holy men of old. This is true in a twofold way:
First, in so far as the miracles occasioned a deep impression
of God's presence and of His overwhelming omnipotence, by
which the ban, put upon believers by the superior power of
the cosmos, was broken, and they were set free and faith
Avas wakened. And secondly, because in each miracle by
itself and in the mutual connection of all these wonderful
works one grand, ever-varied thought of God expressed itself,
the language of which only needed to be understood in order
to have one's spiritual consciousness enriched. It should
be noted, however, that the holy men of God separated that
God who manifests Himself in His miracles, so little from
the God who created and maintains the cosmos, that in
their perception the glory of the Lord in creation and in
nature constantly identified itself with that other glory
which He revealed to and in His people. The last four
Psalms show this most plainly : First, in Ps. cxlvii. 1-11
the glory of God in nature is sung, in verses 12-14 the
glory of God's peoj^le appears, in verses 15-18 the power of
God over nature is again exalted, and finally we read, " He
sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments
unto Israel. He hath 7iot dealt so ivith any nation.'' Thus
to the singer the Niphleoth of the natural and special prin-


cipium form one grand whole, while the antithesis is not
lost for a moment. In the same way, in Ps. cxlviii. all that
lives not only, but every creature that exists, is poetically
called upon to praise Jehovah, while the manifestation of
the special principium asserts itself in the end, when it
reads : " And he hath lifted up the horn of his people, the
praise of all his saints ; even of the children of Israel, a peo-
ple near unto him. Hallelujah." And comparing Ps. cxlix.
with cl. it is seen that in Ps. cxlix. the glory of the Lord
among His people is the theme of the Hallelujah, while
in Ps. cl. it is His greatness as creator and preserver of
everything. Doubtless the singers and prophets of Israel
owed this majestic conception of nature, which is entirely
peculiar to Israel, to the prayer (Ps. cxix. 18), Open thou
mine eyes, that I may behold, etc. ; only by the working of
the special principium were they enabled to see the great-
ness of the Lord in the utterances of the natural princip-
ium ; but with this result that they by no means viewed the
miracles as standing isolated by themselves, but always with
the Niphleoth in the realm of nature for their background.

Thus we see that apart from real inspiration itself, all sorts
of subjective as well as objective mediums of inspiration were
employed by God, by which either to prepare His servants
for inspiration, to impart it unto them, or to enrich, ratify,
or explain its content.

§ 83. The Factors of Inspiration - '^ "

In the study of the factors of inspiration proper we begin
with a sharp distinction between inspiration as a means of
revelation and inspiration of the Holy Scripture. If, for in-
stance, I take the fiftieth Psalm, the questions may be asked
how, in what way, and on what occasion the singer was in-
spired with the content of this song, and what the relation is
between what he himself sang and what God sang in and
through him ; but these are entirely different from the ques-
tion by what action of the Holy Spirit this ancient song, in
just this form, was adopted into the holy codex, by which it
became a word of God to His whole church. For the pres-


ent, however, this latter question as to the special inspiration
of the Holy Scripture may be passed by. It can only be con-
sidered when the inspiration of revelation has been explained
more fully. The thought cannot be entertained that a
prophet like Amos, as an inspired person, may never have
spoken or written anything more than those nine chapters we
now have as oracles of God in his name. In length these nine
chapters are scarcely equal to one short sermon. The asser-
tion, therefore, is none too strong, that he spoke under
prophetic inspiration at least twenty times as much, while
whatever has been lost has nothing to do with the inspiration
of the Holy Scripture. With these nine short chapters onl}^
ca7i there be a question of this. The two kinds of inspiration,
therefore, must be kept apart, and we must consider first
what came first, viz. inspiration as the means employed of
God, by which to cause His revelation-organs to speak, sing,
or write what He desired and purposed. It cannot be de-
nied that in the Holy Scripture, even for the greater part,
utterances occur from the revelation-organs which make
the impression of being the utterance of their subjective
consciousness, but back of which a higher motive appears to
have been active, flowing from another consciousness stand-
ing above them. In Psalm xxii., for instance, a speaker is
evidently present who moans from the depths of his own
sorrows, but before the song is ended the impression is
received that an altogether different " man of sorrows "
addresses you. Nothing derogatory is here implied to the
more objective medium of inspiration treated in the former
section, by which foreign words and scenes affected the ear
and eye of the men of God. But in the Holy Scripture
these objective means of revelation are not the rule, and the
greater part of the content of the Scripture presents itself
as having come forth subjectively from the human author,
while nevertheless in his subjective utterance there worked
a higher inspiring irvevjxa ; and it is properly this action of
the Holy Spirit which here introduces inspiration as means
of revelation in its narrowest sense. For this reason inspira-
tion bears one character in lyric poetry, and another with



the prophets, and still another with the Cliokma, Avith Christ
and with the apostles, so that each of these kinds of inspira-
tion must separately be considered. But these lyrical, pro-
phetical, chokmatic inspirations, etc., have something in
common, and this must first be explained.

Inspiration rests upon the antithesis between the Spirit
of God and the spirit of man, and indicates that the Spirit of
God enlists into His service the spirit of man, disposes of it,
and uses it as His conscious or unconscious organ. In this
the human spirit is either more active or passive, in pro-
portion as it has greater or lesser affinity to what God will
reveal by it. If that affinity is entire, as is the case in
some ajDostolic epistles, the action of the human spirit will
seem to be the sole factor, and inspiration will scarcely be
observed ; while, on the other hand, where this affinity is
very limited, as is the case with the most of Ezekiel's visions,
the human spirit appears as little more than a phonograph,
which serves to catch the action of the Spirit of God.
This inspiration lies grounded in the nature of our human
spirit. This is no isolated potency, but one that is pervasive.
Our spirit can be affected by other spirits, and this can be
done in two ways : either by entering in by the peripher}^
in order thence to approach the centrum of our spirit ; or by
entering into that centrum, in order thence to extend itself

Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 47 of 64)