A Brief Theology of Inspiration part one

inspiration OT

A Brief Theology of Inspiration

In previous articles we saw that Jesus and the apostles viewed the Old Testament Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God. It is my aim in the next few articles to consider the doctrine of inspiration. As we do so, we shall briefly look back over the Old Testament testimony, the New Testament testimony to the Old Testament Scriptures, the meaning of “given by inspiration of God,” and the New Testament testimony to its own inspiration.

The Inspiration of The Old Testament

There Old Testament does not present us with an explicit statement of its inspiration. That should not discourage us, however, because there is an abundance of testimony to the inspiration of the Old Testament to be found within its pages.

One noticeable thing is that there were times that we find God commanding men to write things down for posterity. For example, when Israel fought against Amalek and conquered them, YHWH told Moses to write a memorial of the battle in a book so that it would be remembered. “And the Lordsaid unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14, AV 1873) We also see that God spoke the words of the law, and then Moses wrote them down (Exodus 20:1;24:4). Not only so, but later those records which Moses wrote down were spoken of as being written with the finger of God (Exodus 31:18;32:15-16;34:1-4,27-28). Instead of thinking that God actually has physical fingers with which He writes, I believe we should understand this as God speaking the words and Moses recording them as He spoke. The end result was that Moses, as the finger of God, wrote God’s words. Commenting on the phrase “written with the finger of God,” John MacArthur says it is “A figurative way of attributing the law to God.[1]” We could certainly say along with others that “The phrase ‘finger of God’ is best understood as an anthropomorphism, that is, a metaphor comparing some aspect of God with the traits of a human being. The phrase does not assert that the Lord God possesses a human body; it affirms that God, and not Moses, was ultimately responsible for the creation of the text inscribed on the stones (cp. 24:12; 32:16; Dt 4:13; 5:22; 9:10). The wording suggests that the means by which the words were recorded was supernatural, but does not indicate the exact method God chose to inscribe them.[2]” If we do subscribe to a miraculous recording of the law instead of Moses writing them, we still have a document that is the very Word of God.

After the tablets containing the law were broken by Moses, he was instructed to write them again. The command to Moses was, “Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.” (Exodus 34:27, AV 1873) We see that Moses was given specific words to write as he recorded the covenant that YHWH was making with Israel. Those words were the words of God, though written by Moses. JFB comments on this verse saying, “Write thou these words—that is, the ceremonial and judicial injunctions comprehended above (Ex 34:11–26); while the rewriting of the ten commandments on the newly prepared slabs was done by God Himself.[3]” Their thoughts were that God re-wrote the tablets of the law and commanded Moses to write some additional words regarding the covenant with YHWH. This does seem to be what happened, as Moses later said, “At that time the Lordsaid unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark. And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the Lordspake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the Lordgave them unto me.” (Deuteronomy 10:1–4, AV 1873)

At the end of Moses’ life he wrote even more and commanded Israel to keep it in the ark of God along with the tablets of the law: “And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,” (Deuteronomy 31:9–10, AV 1873).  Later he was commanded to write more concerning Israel and their covenant with God (Deuteronomy 31:16-27).   John Calvin commented on this passage and said, “Since the two Tables were enclosed in the Ark of the Covenant, a place at the side was assigned to the interpretation, so that they might have no doubt but that it proceeded from the same Divine Author…[4]” His understanding of this passage was that the Word of God as given to/through Moses was more than the ten commandments, but included the rest of Moses’ writings. It is instructive to note the context here, because Moses told Israel to keep all of the commandments which he had given them regarding the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 31:1-5). This leads us to the reasonable conclusion that  all of Moses’ writings were indeed the Word of God. When he concluded his writings he commanded the elders of Israel to put them in the ark of the covenant along with the law of God (Deuteronomy 31:24-26), thus signifying that they were equal to the ten commandments in their authority and origins. We have good reason to conclude that Moses’ writings were the inspired words of God.

Time and space do not permit us to exhaustively survey the Old Testament for testimonies to its inspiration, but we do find numerous instances in which other Old Testament writers and prophets declared that they were presenting the very words of God. David understood that he recorded some of the words of God (2Samuel 23:1-2). He also acknowledged the inspiration of the five books of Moses saying, “He hath remembered his covenant for ever, The word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant he made with Abraham, And his oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, And to Israel for an everlasting covenant: Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, The lot of your inheritance: When they were but a few men in number; Yea, very few, and strangers in it.” (Psalm 105:8–12, AV 1873) David speaks of the Genesis account of God’s promise to Abraham as being God’s Word, as well as the promises to Isaac and Jacob. All of these things, and the law, are listed as part of God’s covenant with Israel. God’s covenant is His word of promise to Israel to be their God, and they His people. We can conclude from this that David recognized the Pentateuch as the Word of God. In Isaiah chapters six and eight we find Isaiah given commandments to speak God’s Word and to write God’s Word. Jeremiah was commanded to speak God’s words which God would put in his mouth (Jeremiah 1:1-10), and later spoke of those same words burning within him (Jeremiah 20:9). We also have record of Jeremiah being commanded to write God’s Word in a book: “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Thus speaketh the LordGod of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.” (Jeremiah 30:1–2, AV 1873) We find again in Jeremiah 36:1-2 that he is commanded to write God’s words in a book. This book was destroyed by king Jehoiakim, yet Jeremiah was commanded to write the words of God once again (Jeremiah 36:27-30). Ezekiel, too, was given a command to write God’s words (Ezekiel 43:10-11). So, too, was Hakkuk commanded to write the vision that he had seen (Habakkuk 2:1-2). If we couple this with the multiple instances in which we read of God’s words coming to people, men speaking the words of YHWH to Israel, and the many times that “thus saith the LORD” is cited, we find that the Old Testament certainly claims to be the inspired Word of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible.Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006.

[2]Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, 136 (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).

[3]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, A. R. Fausset et al., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Ex 34:27–28 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[4]John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Dt 31:14 (Galaxie Software, 2002; 2002).

A Brief Look At The New Testament Use of The Old Testament

A Brief Look At The New Testament Use of The Old Testament

In my time of studying the Bible I have often wondered about the New Testament use of the Old Testament.   Of special concern were Matthew 2:11-15 and Galatians 3:16.   Did the New Testament writers use some sort of Holy Ghost exegesis that led them to their conclusions?  Did they simply impose their doctrine upon the Old Testament texts?  Neither of these things truly seemed to be in keeping with the integrity of a Christian character, nor did they seem to be consistent with Divine inspiration.  What was I to do, then?  What was I to believe about this issue?  This short paper is my effort to come to a conclusion based upon the two texts above.

In this article I shall begin in Genesis and work my way through several Old Testament texts in an effort to show that the New Testament writers were actually using the texts in a manner that would be consistent with the understanding of the Old Testament writers.

The passage in Matthew 2 reads:

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. ” (Matthew 2:13–15, KJV)

The Galatians 3 reads:

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. ” (Galatians 3:16, KJV)

 

It is my contention that the Old Testament writers did indeed have Christ in mind as they wrote.

The expectation of the people of God in the OT was that there would come a deliver.  God’s promise in Genesis explicitly promises a son to come.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. ” (Genesis 3:15, KJV)

Not only does God promise a son, He promises a seed (singular).  Thus, in the very beginning, the expectation of the savior would that one who is both seed (singular) and son.

The expectation of the people no doubt grew when Jacob prophesied of the coming Messiah saying:

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. ” (Genesis 49:10, KJV)

Later, the LORD would speak of the nation of Israel as “my son” when He sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt (cf Exodus 4:22).  Later the nation of Israel would be spoken of again in the singular in a reference that is no doubt Messianic in nature:
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain. ” (Numbers 23:21–24, KJV)

In verse 24 the prophecy moves from “the people” to “he shall rise up as a great lion…”  This lion-like man will conquer his enemies.

Balaam prophesied again of the coming Messiah saying:
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city. ” (Numbers 24:17–19, KJV)

Note that the expectation is that there will be a seed out of Jacob.  Though he does not use the word “seed”, yet the Messiah, the coming King shall be a descendant of Jacob.  Not only that, but the prophecy speaks of one man, not many just as Paul shall later do in Galatians 3:16.

 

Later a prophet like Moses would be promised (Deuteronomy 18:15-19) and that would lead the people even further in their expectation of this one man who would come to be their deliverer.

David had an especially significant event in his life when he realized the this deliverer would be a descendant of his.

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. ” (2 Samuel 7:12–15, KJV)

And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods? For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee for ever: and thou, LORD, art become their God. And now, O LORD God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said. And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee. ” (2 Samuel 7:23–26, KJV)

Again, the prophecy is regarding one seed who shall be king.  This seed is the seed of David, yet he is to be the son of God.  (cf Psalm 2:6-12;89:19-29;Isaiah 9:6-7)

Later, Isaiah would speak further of Him (Isaiah 11:1-10), as would Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5-6;33:15-16), and Daniel would have a vision of Him coming to rule the world:
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. ” (Daniel 7:13–14, KJV)

And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. ” (Daniel 7:27, KJV)

Having seen the development of the expectation of the Messiah as one who is the seed of Abraham, the seed of David, the son of God, and the king of all, I am not surprised to see the following verse used in reference to Jesus the Christ being the son of God:

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. ” (Hosea 11:1, KJV) (cf Matthew 2:13-15)

After all, the people of Israel looked for this One who is the seed of Abraham (cf Genesis 22:18) and the embodiment of all that God expected Israel as a nation to be, and Jesus is the ultimate Israelite.  He is the Son of God and the son of man.  The seed of the woman (cf Galatians 4:1-5), the seed of Abraham, and the Son of God.  Through the years the people knew that their Messiah would be what they were not – perfect.  He would rule over all as the ultimate Israelite/descendant of Abraham, and the One to whom all of Israel’s history was leading them.  Thus the prophecy of Israel coming out of Egypt could indeed apply to the Messiah as the Son of God.

Considering the Galatian passage we find that it, too, is interpreting the Old Testament text correctly, because the Old Testament prophecies clearly anticipated the coming Christ, the seed of Abraham.

As we read the New Testament we find that there was a very well developed Christological expectation in existence at the time of the birth of Jesus.  The reader will recall that Simeon spoke to Mary about Jesus and even hinted that His work would actually be one that would bring grief to His mother (See Luke 2:25-35).  In so speaking, it is obvious that Simeon’s expectation of Jesus’ work was not simply that of an exalted king who would rule over all.  Simeon evidently understood somewhat of the suffering that was to come to Jesus.  It is most likely that he had this understanding based upon the Old Testament Scriptures and not solely on the basis of any spiritual experience he may have had.

As the Baptizer came on the scene we find that there was much musing about him.  He was questioned whether he were the Messiah or not, showing us that there was a Messianic expectation.  John’s response was to preach Jesus as one who would be a sacrificial lamb given as a sin offering: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, KJV)  For this to have made any sense to anyone listening there would have of necessity been an expectation of a suffering Christ who would forgive sins.  Again, that expectation would have had its roots in the Old Testament prophecies and promises.

Jesus, Himself, testified to this expectation when He told the people that the Scriptures testified of Him (See John 5:39), that Abraham rejoiced because he saw the day of Christ (See John 8:56), and when He rebuked the disciples because they did not believe the Old Testament Scriptures which prophesied of His coming, suffering, and subsequent glory:  “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. ” (Luke 24:25–27, KJV)  The Old Testament prophecies of Jesus were so clear that Jesus rebuked them for not believing them.  This would have been impossible if the prophecies were vague, imprecise, and could only have been interpreted in light of the New Testament after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.

When we come to an Old Testament quotation in our New Testament which gives us pause to think that there is a difference between the NT writer’s meaning and the OT meaning, then we should seriously consider what the body of OT truth has to say about the matter before we hastily declare that the NT writers were inspired to use the OT in a way inconsistent with the intent of the OT writers, or that the NT writers added meaning to the OT texts.  When writing inspired Scripture the NT writers did not miss anything about the OT texts, but we may very well be missing much.  I am sure that we are.  I trust that this study will help us to consider how we must carefully approach the Scriptures when we study them, and that we should certainly appreciate the richness of the OT texts more than we do.