Chapter 6 Some Principles of Interpretation

Observations already made have indicated the view of the Bible which is here advocated. We may now define more fully what it involves.

The revolutionary views of Criticism, which alter so completely previous ideas of Bible history and also the former understanding of its origin and development, are contrary to the principles of Divine government and at variance with the course which the evidence shows God pursued in the revelation of Himself, as stated again and again and confirmed in the Bible.

This weakness of Criticism, too, finds sufficient analogous confirmation in a survey of history in general, due to the fact that God is ever working behind the scenes in a providential way. His revelatory way is found only in the Bible, and in primary connection with one family and nation, but that supplies us with a key nevertheless, shown to be of universal significance.

Revelation, as Trench says, is God “drawing back the veil or curtain which conceals Him from men; not man finding out God, but God discovering Himself to man.” Providence is God behind the curtain, in full control of all through His omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.

The general fact that God is at work in man’s history working out His own eternal purposes goes without question. He participates in its course, and may be found present in some form at its every crisis, even though we may discern His presence only in a very shadowy way through our very limited vision and imperfect understanding of the issues which are involved. These may be earthly and heavenly, natural and supernatural, seen and unseen, human and superhuman. But in the Bible this presence culminates in particular and special relations, which become of universal import by showing that God must through all history be there working, though at the best only dimly seen by us, except where His written and inspired book of revelation comes to our aid.

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel (Deut. 32:8).

The God that made the world62 and all things therein, He, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is He served by men’s hands, as though He needed anything, seeing He himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things, and He has made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring (Acts 17:24-28; Am. Rev.).

Daniel says:

The Most High ruleth over the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He wills.” And Nebuchadnezzar, in the day of his conversion and restoration, declares in language which echoes the testimony of all inspired witnesses, “I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored Him that liveth forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion and His kingdom from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou? (Daniel 4:25, 34, 35; Am. Rev.)

God, then, must be working in and through all history to the consummation of eternal purposes. He is weaving together strands of many varied hues which seem to us broken and disconnected, as they stretch across the centuries. They may look all tangled and confused, when with one quick short life-glance we try to survey the expanse over which they are spread; but the eye of the Divine Worker sees the end from the beginning—“His eyes observe the nations” (Ps. 66:7)—the finished design is before Him, every strand has its use, and all is being woven together into a perfect fabric, like a tapestry of rare color and beauty. When it is finished and spread out in the court of the Eternal, it shall bring to Him universal praise and worship.

Read the marvelous panoramas of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, as with divinely illuminated vision they portray the Divine action, both in retrospect and in prospect expanding in various forms until it embraces “all the kingdoms of the world which are upon the face of the earth.” Then, no other conclusion than the one just stated is acceptable to the reverent student of Scripture.

This tapestry of universal history, to continue to use our figure, into which is being woven the abiding illustrations of God’s providential ways in the whole world and its changeful course, is not yet finished. Thus far only unfinished scenes and figures are open to view. We cannot now describe in detail the final and complete story of His providential ways, any more than Moses could have made known the wonderful mystery unfolded by Paul in his epistles.

But, if the figure is permissible, the tapestry of Divine Revelation which was only beginning to be made in Moses’ day, is quite unlike that of human history in this respect: it is now finished. We can therefore consider the wonder of its full design, and get an understanding of the mind and truth of God as worked out in it in a rounded whole. With this as a key, we can even look out upon the world-course, upon mankind, and already be persuaded that in the complexity of human affairs God must be working, must have been working through all the ages. The Book of revelation takes us behind the curtain to make known to us the great principles which rule everywhere in the ways of God.

In Scripture these principles are acted out for us as in a great drama. Israel occupies a central place upon the stage which we may call the land of Canaan, and there on a reduced scale, but with full and perfect detail, the action takes place by which the revelation is made and the most far-reaching understanding given of the character, will, ways, purpose and glory of the eternal God. The whole description and interpretation of this Divine panorama is found in the Holy Scriptures recorded by divinely inspired penmen.

We turn and then return, to the Bible, confident that light will always be found there by which to penetrate into every avenue of human interest and research, and guidance for mind and heart as exploration proceeds.

Those principles and the course which God pursues in the process of His revelation of Himself with which the views of Modern Criticism come into conflict or of which they constitute a denial may now be outlined.

The fact that God uses history in general has been stated. The Bible, however, is the proof of His special use of it for particular, specially chosen objects within well defined limits of action and within a definite cycle of relations. Thus, we may say God’s use of history in the Bible bears a relation to His use of history in general. This concentrated form of procedure is introduced, it would seem, in order that all the features of the revelation of Himself thus more vividly manifested in this smaller compass may be perceived more clearly by the onlooking universe, heavenly and earthly, in all their variety of part and measure. In this way, attention is focused from every quarter upon one circumscribed scene in which every action and character plays a recognizable part, and where, too, stands the mystery of the ages—the Cross of Christ.

We must now endeavor to point out the regulative principles which govern, and indicate the steps which constitute, the course adopted by the Master as the process of the whole marvelous revelation.

1. All history presents a constantly recurring threefold cycle which is especially illustrated in Bible history, thus: (a) introduced and established perfection; (b) degradation, the result of departures from this originally perfect order, issuing finally in some disaster or catastrophe, invasion from without combining with internal conditions to produce break-up and change more or less radical; (c) revival or restoration in which there is a return to original and fundamental principles. Restoration, however, is not to the originally perfect state, for the marks of the preceding degradation remain evident in some degree and exercise a salutary influence consistent with God’s government. Often some higher and richer unfolding of truth grows out of them by which we learn that God, in furthering His purpose of revelation, may make use of untoward circumstances to manifest Himself. The initial perfection is of God; the degradation is of man who proves false to his responsibility to maintain what God has established, and connected with the disaster which follows upon man’s failure is God’s intervention in judgment. Restoration or revival follows in which a return to original and fundamental principles is accompanied by God’s intervention in salvation.

This constantly recurring threefold cycle determines the grand divisions of Scripture history, and is found in operation also in the general course of the history of all nations and peoples. In the light of Scripture, we may account for its universality by the fact that a single final issue is being worked out under the hand of God.

Illustrative stages in this threefold cycle may be traced in these epochs: from Adam to the Flood period; Noah to Abraham’s call; Abraham to the Egyptian period; Israel’s history from the first passover to the Jordan; from Joshua to the Judges period; from the commencement of the Davidic kingdom to the captivities; from the return to Christ; from Pentecost to the present.

Again, consider creation. First, perfection (Gen. 2:1); then, ruin (vs. 2) in respect to the earth and its immediate heavenly relations; then the work of restoration as accomplished in the six days. Take the case of man: created perfect and placed amid perfect conditions (Gen. 2); degradation and disaster enter in by reason of failure to maintain the established perfection (Gen. iii), man is driven out of Eden; restoration effected afterward through the provision which God Himself makes. But Paradise is not restored. That man is to continue to live his life amid the consequences of his failure is the edict of God’s government and, so living, learn the richness of His mercy and goodness under those very conditions, in a way not otherwise possible.

Thus, too, with Israel. In the first period, a perfect code of law and ceremony with the knowledge of the one true God, is followed by a second in which the nation lapsed into gross idolatry and utterly failed to observe the covenant originally established. God brought in judgment after judgment, revival after revival, the judgments reaching a climax in the great captivities and the work of revival in the great return from Babylon. Each revival was characterized by some measure of return to the original order, and this is especially noticeable in the Ezra-Nehemiah period.

God thus acted to restore at the same time not erasing all marks of His judgment. Nevertheless, the threefold cycle was resumed; degradation followed, culminating in the crucifixion of Christ, the consequent destruction of Jerusalem and world-wide dispersion of the Jewish people. From this debacle, restoration will again be effected, as prophecy reveals; the kingdom glory will follow. Even that, however, closes later in failure with an ensuing judgment which seals up the record of time (Rev. 20).

The history of the Church tells the same story. Set up in perfection by the Apostles, departure and degradation began to manifest themselves before the end of the first Christian century. Conditions grew darker until the midnight hour was reached in the Middle Ages. Then revival came with the great reformation, and a fresh start was made. The record since again has been one of successive decline and revival, with a growing inability for sustained effort as the years have passed and an apparent decline of scope or area to which the results of revival attain. The New Testament bears witness that this would be the general condition of things in its writings of latest date.

Not only, however, is this threefold recurring cycle manifest in such great movements as those of Israel and the Church; it may also be observed in the life histories of individuals given in the Bible. It is further manifest in the history of human society, although here its rise and fall can not be deciphered as plainly as in those which are even more directly of God. Such human movements take their rise in, and are governed by their relation to the sinful condition of humanity. Since they start from its level, we first witness a climb more or less slow from certain existing primitive states to those of higher and more advanced character. No sooner is the pinnacle reached than corrupting influences begin to manifest themselves; decay sets in; next some disaster or catastrophe happens. Out of the chaos which follows, some measure of revival afterwards takes place only to end up by tracing a similar treadmill on the historical chart.

This philosophy of history, explained and illustrated in the Bible, so as to bring it within our grasp and thereafter observable, also, in human society, is catastrophic in character and not evolutionistic except in so far as each occurring catastrophe proves to be a summons to some movement of recovery or leads to the introduction of some element of higher character than had previously existed.

These sequences become so increasingly evident as history proceeds that they almost point to the operation of a universal law. They seem to indicate the steps of the Eternal across the ages of time. This threefold constantly recurring cycle is most distinctly defined in the Bible, doubtless because it is concerned with God’s revelation of Himself as the one true God. The explanation of Bible history is plainer than that of mere human history, for His personal manifestations and direct communications are there, and elsewhere only what may be termed the tracks of His providence.

2. From a study of the operation of this law, if the term is permissible, emerges another governing principle of the divine ways in revelation. It becomes apparent that God times His acts of self-revealing according to existing need, and in every case His action awaits that fullness of time which is according to His perfect wisdom. Thus each part of His revelation can only be rightly understood in a moral relation to the circumstances existing at the time He gave it.

Let us fix our attention upon His revelatory activities consequent upon man’s fall, as that timed the opportunity and necessity for what the Bible reveals.

Three main features may then be noted, (a) His judgments, never being arbitrary nor merely punitory, express the moral and spiritual relations of conditions existing, (b) His will is so made known that those who will, may hear and obey even in the midst of those conditions, and go on to enjoy spiritual fellowship with Him and become in their human measure morally representative of Him. (c) All is so presented that, in meeting whatever might be the special need on any given occasion, instruction, edification and application suitable to the need of all ages are imparted. Thus does His Word make God known as omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent in relation to the whole course of history, no matter what the variety of circumstance, or the particular period of time we may consider.

This is what the apostle Paul has in mind when he affirms that, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Again, after recounting part of Israel’s history, he says, “Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come “ (1 Cor. 10:11).

With this same Apostle again we too may then be sure that, “Every scripture is inspired of God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work “ (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). This, “word of the Lord abideth forever” (Peter) and the Lord Jesus let us know that “Scripture cannot be broken.”

The synchronism stage by stage of revelation and history is evident from a study of Scripture. When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son (Gal. 4:4). “For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be born [or, rendered] in its own times “ (1 Tim. 2:5, 6). He came at the end or consummation of the ages to put away sin by His sacrifice (Heb. 10:26).

These ages had their definite turning points in which the development of revelation synchronized with the existing conditions. The time of innocence was closed by man’s disobedience. This called for great changes, and God reveals Himself to pronounce judgment on all concerned, to be sure, but also to make known other beneficent purposes which He set forth both by word and action (Gen. 3, 4).

The race now begins life amid the adverse conditions resulting from the Fall. There is advancement in material things, but degradation in moral and spiritual things. In due season God acts. He speaks in warning prophecy by Enoch, as Jude informs us, and takes this man miraculously unto Himself out of the world; when in special communications with Noah, God announces His judgment upon it and acquaints him with His plan for his salvation. Noah preached righteousness during the appointed season. Here elements of advance crop out in God’s revelation, and still further development takes place when He recognizes Noah as the new head of the race after judgment has purged the earth.

Failure and degradation again ensue and in its course this time idolatry is introduced. Its spread and prevalence become the occasion for fresh action from God, and forth from its midst He calls the man Abram to be a special witness. With him and his seed God sets in motion a new and distinct upward course of action which proceeds and is developed during the rest of time, side by side with the downward trend of world-conditions under the leadership of evil spiritual powers which had invaded it in the age after the flood and foisted idolatry upon the race of men.

This does not mean that God had the control of affairs taken away from Him in so far as it pleases Him to exercise it. The contrary has already been affirmed. It is, however, in providential ways that this control is to be understood as operative. His ways in revelation from the time of the call of Abram are closely connected with Abraham and his seed. In those ways progress and enlargement are still to be discerned, as the Bible record is studied. One of the stages is timed to connect with the fullness of Amorite iniquity (Gen. 15:16). A ripeness of time was reached in the course of history for Israel’s deliverance from servitude with its related richness of revelation and warning visitation of judgment upon the gods of Egypt, and a little later upon the awful iniquity of the Amorites laid bare in the ethical laws given by Moses.

While maintaining testimony as to what is His due within their apprehension, so that men are without excuse, God permits evil fully to manifest itself before judgment falls. Thus will His action when examined, be justified in the eyes of all, His judgments vindicated. But there goes hand in hand with every such manifestation of what is called by the Prophet “His strange work” a further revelation of Himself. His manifestation of judgment upon idolatry waited from Abram’s call to abandon it and witness against it in his obedience to God’s word until in the time due for it His judgment blazed forth in the land of Egypt, the mightiest kingdom of that day, that the effect might be felt throughout the world. A little later His judgment burned to extermination in the land of Canaan, the scene of Amorite iniquity, which was, also, the highway for all nations, so that the divine message might be carried to all parts of the habitable earth.

There at the cross-roads of the world, God set up His arena for all future revelatory action, for none could miss learning whatever He might there perform. The action thereafter rolls on to its grand consummation in Christ and the complete revelation of God and His purposes by the Apostles and prophets of the New Testament.

3. As this record of God’s revelation is studied, another principle becomes evident. It is that God takes up certain samples by the use of which He gives the manifestation He desires. The sample He selects may be a nation or it may be an individual. Thus, He used Israel to teach us lessons of universal and eternal significance. Thus, too, He used Abraham, Joseph, Pharaoh, David, Nebuchadnezzar. And even though this earth upon which we live be only “a floating speck in a cosmos that staggers the greatest intellect,” yet God selected it as the stage upon which to show His marvelous physical and spiritual creations, and as the scene of His Son’s life and death to which indeed universal and eternal significance attaches.

Alfred Russel Wallace once said that it appeared to him that this “floating speck” was at the center of the great physical universe. If so, its place is analogous to that in which God set Israel, even at a point where flowed all the cross-currents of the world’s life; a place central to all the nations and peoples of the earth. God it would seem chooses the small, the insignificant, the despised, the weak, and makes such shine as stars of the first magnitude. Is it not this in principle that Paul tells us when saying, “God chose the foolish things of the world, that He might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that He might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that He might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God”?

4. Israel’s history in particular may now be considered. The view Criticism takes of it has already been set before us and we have also examined its bearing upon the origin, making, and character of the Bible. The argument is that the conditions of the Judges can be explained only by the non-existence of any such system of things as the Pentateuch sets forth, and by denying that any such conquest as the book of Joshua describes could have taken place, since in either case it would be almost impossible to explain how such great religious degradation and such general condition of servitude could come to prevail in so short a lapse of time.

But if we accept the priority of the Pentateuch and Joshua this is not hard to understand after all. Analogies to it have been manifest in history which cannot be questioned. The Christian Church was established in perfect spiritual order during the twenty-five years after Pentecost. Yet before the end of the first century degradation had already set in, and its spread was plainly foretold by the Apostles. After seventy-five years, at the most, we have John’s sorrowful record of the churches in Asia (Rev. 2, 3) as given to him by the Lord Himself. In a few more years this decline had developed to a point where no one could recognize them as having any close likeness to those of the early and originally perfect Christian order of which especially the Pauline epistles are a record.

Because of this decline and degradation are we to conclude that those epistles were not in existence at the beginning, or that the teachings they present were not the foundation upon which the Church was established through the oral ministry of Apostles and prophets? We would have to do this if we apply to this history the Critical viewpoint as to Israel’s defection to which that of the Christian Church so closely corresponds both in character and in length of time. But it has no more application to the latter than to the former. The history in both cases is strikingly parallel. It all shows how quickly man can bring to ruin that which is committed in perfection to his responsibility.

Even though it be shown that the history of the period between Joshua and Ezra records no practical conformity to Pentateuchal legislation, this cannot be regarded as proof that the Pentateuch did not exist. Does the growing darkness of the Christian centuries preceding the great reformation period prove that no Bible was in existence until the days of the reformers? Yet who would have known by looking upon the Church or reading its literature during those dark ages that such a book as the New Testament really existed?

In a multitude of ways the history of the Church could be summoned as witnessing that no such Scriptural charter of Christianity could be found. Plenty of traditions, Church decisions, philosophic speculations and mysticism; but the Bible—where was that? Seemingly not known^ certainly not taught or used publicly. Therefore nonexistent! Was it? No. Then, was the Pentateuch nonexistent in the Judges-period?

There is scattering evidence in the historical books to show that the Pentateuch was known during the time from Joshua to Josiah, just as there are isolated cases during the Christian era which show that the Bible was known in certain quarters, at least, during the Dark Ages.

The point is that Israel’s history conforms to the general law already observed—perfection, degradation, restoration. Convincing proof to the contrary is not to be found.

5. If the critical view of the Bible history is untenable, then the companion theory of the origin and making of the Bible becomes equally so, and the supposed brilliant achievement of demonstrating the parallelism between Israel’s history and the growth of the Bible sinks into insignificance. It becomes valueless.

The question of authorship need not give us a great deal of concern. We can discard the elaborate and complex documentary apparatus of the Critics. What might be called the reasonable things upon which they found their distinctions are quite susceptible of other explanations, and the many unreasonable ones call for scant notice. The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch need not be doubted merely because it is evident that another hand wrote the account of the great leader’s death and burial. There is no need of denying that certain passages give evidence of an editor’s work, for, as the various books passed through the hands of divinely inspired men, such as the prophets, Ezra, and Nehemiah, some such editorial work may well have been done by men qualified by inspiration to do it during the period in which the Old Testament canon was arranged. This, however, in no way weakens the claims to be authoritative accepted and witnessed to within the Bible itself, a most important part of which is the testimony of the Lord and His Apostles.

That documents of record and narrative were used by some of the Biblical writers is evident from many references to such in Kings and Chronicles. A similar reference occurs in 2 Samuel (1:18), in Joshua (x. 12, 13), and one in the Book of Numbers (21:14, 15). The names of these sources are plainly given, which puts them in a very different category from those conjectural documents named by the critics—Elohist, Yahwehist, Deuteronomist, Priestly; then a combination of Elohist and Yahwehist by some redactor; then a joining of this last with the first three; and ultimately a combination of all together, not forgetting, however, to mention that the Priestly document has several parts originating in different ages.

Moreover, none of these documents, Criticism tells us, is to be considered the work of an individual but of schools to which are given the several names mentioned in the foregoing. The method by which these supposed documents unmentioned in the Bible are distinguished is largely one of unsupported assertion. In many instances the evidence is fantastic and inconclusive; much of it is merely ingenious sophistry.63

It is admitted by one of their own number that “in spite of the labors of critics there still remains a considerable number of passages in which division of sources is very uncertain. There is, too, always a certain danger of using as criteria comparatively rare words or phrases [a very favorite resort of this school], which possibly by accident happen to occur once or twice in one source or the other. The reasonings by which the critical results are obtained are very complicated … in many cases the analysis is … difficult and uncertain.”64

While critics stand united in the acceptance of the documentary hypothesis, their contradictory conclusions among themselves and the varying results at which they arrive in the effort to distinguish the documents and assign to them the Bible books piecemeal, discredit their position and make them look little short of absurd. This becomes evident if we compare the works of foremost critical writers dealing with the same Bible book.

6. Without doubt the primary object of the Bible is moral and spiritual teaching. But it is evident that the history it records is history teaching by example, and is an integral part of its structure, essential therefore to the revelation given in this Book. This history is history put to use and made the vehicle by which God is manifested and His purposes disclosed. It is permeated throughout with manifold moral and spiritual instruction.

There is manifest selection of material in the Biblical narratives, a selection suited to the primary object of moral and spiritual teaching, which object is kept constantly in view in every part and by every writer throughout the fourteen centuries which separate the commencement and the completion of the Bible.

This paramount object is the bond which unites all its diversity into a perfect and harmonious revelation of God, His character, ways and purposes. The Bible narratives possess a character distinctly different from those of merely human production. “How often we find absolute silence where man would have enlarged, and how often a fierce light is cast on episodes that men would have hidden in darkness.”

Now this interweaving of history with doctrine and precept and their complete interdependence make it necessary that the history in order to be fit for this service should be inerrant. If it is not, all else may well be questioned since the historical elements are basic to the moral and spiritual elements which pervade the Book. Thus, the dislocation of the historical order which criticism advocates means dislocation everywhere, and the casting into disrepute of the entire volume.

These considerations make it necessary to regard infallibility as an element of the nature of the Bible and a guiding principle in its interpretation. No historical detail may be regarded as having a neglible bearing upon the moral and spiritual purpose of the Book. Though there may be many instances in which the application of this reference has not yet been discovered we cannot presume to say that it will not be, even as many of the once obscure and seemingly unsolvable problems of the Biblical record have received confirmation and elucidation as the different departments of human knowledge and research have expanded.

The term infallibility, as here used, may need a word of definition. As applied to the Bible, it means that the record therein given is in every respect true and without error. Both in historical details, even as found in differing accounts of the same event,65 and in the statements of men, good or evil, of Satan, of angels, or of God, we have in every case a divinely accurate report in these “Holy Scriptures,” “the Scriptures of truth.”

This leads us to another essential element of the nature of the Bible. That is its inspiration. Otherwise, it is impossible to conceive that a record of what in some cases did not pass under the observation of the writer and in other cases could not have done so which must be true, for example, of the book of Genesis should be inerrant. But even that which did come under their immediate observation is not simply told as any such matter would ordinarily be when told for its own sake, but is connected with the distinct operation of the Holy Spirit in the mind and heart of the writer, producing an appreciation of it in accord with the Divine Mind, and communicating it in words framed according to these impelling influences of divine origin. Only inspiration can account for predictive prophecy and for the way in which history is treated throughout the Bible. The fact of inspiration Scripture repeatedly affirms; the method is nowhere stated. Its phenomena must be gathered from the Scriptures themselves.

In those who wrote the Bible, the emotions of the soul, the energies of the spirit and even the infirmities of the body are made use of under the control of the divine Spirit, always, of course, in a manner according to the purpose in view. The individuality, peculiarity, and distinctive qualities of these writers find expression in their work, so that the Book is one of ever living interest from the human side, while from the divine it proves itself in every part to be “the word of God, living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are marked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”66

This does not prevent our believing that at least some of the writers did use existing documents, consulted state records and studied various sources of information which were at their disposal. There is evidence that they did, but the Holy Spirit, who moved them to speak or write, gave perfect guidance to them here as elsewhere. It can not be denied that He could direct them what to take and what to leave, even when what was at hand to use was a defective record. They would therefore doubtless at times be conscious of a superior power directing and influencing them to express what might appear to be in conflict with existing records or beliefs. This must have been the case with Moses, who though “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22) wrote a cosmogony so entirely different from any other and superior to anything yet produced, that even the savants of the twentieth century are forced to admit its preeminence. The scriptural account of the flood comes out triumphant from a similar comparison.

Inspiration, then, is divine control of the human instrument, sufficient to insure inerrancy; it implies divine selection of the materials used in the communication given by that instrument, the Holy Spirit exercising His influence and guiding every faculty, thereby effecting the exclusion of error and insuring the use of divine words in all such communications. With the Holy Spirit present in power, to influence and direct the mind, that mind could not do otherwise than submit and select and use that which though of human origin, is suited to the Holy Spirit’s purpose in treating the subject presented. This is not mere dictation—far from it, for all the powers of the mind and heart of the instrument are engaged and wrought upon so that a divine impress is left upon the whole man.

In view of these conditions it is not surprising to find that the prophets afterwards pondered their own communications seeking the full meaning which was not in all cases readily apparent, at first, to them. We are not required to regard them as being always in the exalted state accompanying the work of inspiration. Hence, distinguishing when under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit from when they were not, they would find profit and enlightenment, in the latter case, from the study of their own inspired writings.67

7. This leads to the consideration of another element of the Bible consequent upon its inspiration. Its contents constitute a revelation.

The term, revelation, may be applied to the Bible in both a general and specific way. Speaking generally, the whole Book is a revelation from God in the sense that it has been put together for us according to His perfect will and direction and hence discloses relations and meanings which would not otherwise be known or understood.

But not everything in the Book pertains directly to the revelation of God; this, however, is the underlying object in view and everything is made to contribute its quota toward this end. All is absolutely true as occurrence as recorded, but not all is sanctioned truth, for record is made of the words and actions of Satan as well as of other wicked spirits and wicked men;—all this is plainly to be distinguished from the approved revelation of God concerning His personality, character, will, purpose, action, and doctrine, commingled of truth both objective and subjective, which pervades the whole volume.

The distinction thus drawn, however, does not mean that any part of it is without profit, for all has been brought together with reference to the underlying object of conveying a revelation of God in every moral and spiritual relation, and with special regard to man. No part, not even a list of names, could be taken from the Book without doing violence to it, and causing loss to us. Nothing must be taken from or added to its perfect unity.

It does not follow, therefore, that all that Scripture records as said or done has of necessity the sanction of God attached to it. There are things permitted and not approved, of which use is made, but which are not to be attributed to His command. But whether commanded, or merely allowed in their occurrence, His perfect wisdom and power is exercised upon them afterward, and everything made to contribute to the revelation of Himself. We judge from the fact that He has given us a Book containing these diverse elements that He intends us to learn lessons from them all, and that all relate in some way to the object in view.

God has so written His Word that constant exercise of heart, mind, and conscience are rewarded with ever additional understanding. Concentrated study is the only method of normal spiritual growth accompanied by keener discernment and enlarging apprehension of God’s perfect will and truth. The reverent student of Scripture increasingly feels the need of attaining to a comprehensive grasp of all the scriptures as he seeks to interpret any given part of Holy Writ. Each part also has its contextual as well as its immediate local or specific relations and no part can ever be perfectly understood except in the light of the whole.

Scripture cannot be considered to any solid, lasting advantage as a mere volume of isolated texts, any of which may be made to mean whatever may please the fancv, and even applied to things entirely foreign to its context. Scripture is a divine unity, each part of which must be considered in the light of the whole. It is the work of one Spirit, one Mind. As in a perfect organism, every joint and band and member stands in relation to the whole. The successful student of Scripture cannot, therefore, avoid much exercise, prayer, and searching of every part of this divine library, even so, his much labor will be in vain unless an abiding sense of human weakness in dependence upon the Holy Spirit run through it all.

The principle we need to bear in mind is given to us in 2 Pet. 1:20, for all Scripture is of prophetic character which entwines itself about the Messianic hope, especially the Old Testament. A translator of acknowledged repute renders and comments upon this passage as follows:

Knowing this first, [that the scope of] no prophecy of Scripture is had from its own particular interpretation,—idias, epiluseos ou ginetai, “is not explained by its own meaning,” as a human sentence. It must be understood by and according to the Spirit that uttered it. The “prophecy” is, I take it, the sense of the prophecy, the thing meant by it. Now this is not gathered by a human interpretation of an isolated passage which has its own meaning and its own solution, as if a man uttered it; for it is part of God’s mind, uttered as holy men were moved by the Holy Ghost to utter it. In the “prophecy of Scripture” the apostle has in mind the thing prophesied without losing the idea of the passage. Hence I have ventured to say [the scope of] “no prophecy.” One might almost say “no prophecy explains itself.”

In another place he says:

There cannot be a doubt that from the fall of Adam there was one grand subject of promise and prophecy, of hope and expectation—the Seed of woman who should bruise the serpent’s head—the Seed of Abraham—the Seed of David. To say that this was not produced in the universal mind of Israel, at all times with which we are acquainted (and with no nation are we acquainted so long, or so well at this early date), would be to deny the most certain fact, sustained by the most incontrovertible evidence… The testimony of Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius concur, it is well known, as stating that through all the East a notion prevailed, that, at the time Christ arose, He should arise who would possess the empire of the world. In a word, so strong was the testimony and the expectation, that all over the East it had reached the Gentiles, and was well enough known in the West to be recorded by the two Gentile historians of those times. All prophecy must (if God’s promise was such and true) have centered here; and so, in fact, it does—sometimes given as a relief and encouragement to oppressed saints—sometimes breaking through the dark cloud of judgment, like the sun in a stormy day; but, from Gen. 3 to the last chapter of Malachi, beginning, middle, and ending, every ray of light converged to this point, that Messiah was to come. This is the first enduring sense, the key and object of all prophecy. All the rest is subordinate to, and conduces to this. I have no doubt myself that this leads us to the sense of “private interpretation” in 2 Pet. 1:20. We have not God’s mind in it unless we take His scope in the whole. No prophecy of scripture is of its own interpretation. It must have its meaning as part of a whole.

In closing a further word must be said as to the manner in which Scripture speaks. The Bible deals with man according to the state and circumstances in which he finds himself in this world. Things are referred to in it in the way they are observed by him in the course of his ordinary everyday life. Generally speaking, physical facts are thus stated, and though sometimes manifestly beyond the contemporary knowledge of the times, yet such statements it must be admitted, have proven wonderfully accurate, even in the light of modern science.

It may be said, then, that the Bible states things as they naturally appear and relate to human experience, and not as they appear in scientific theory or observation. Thus alone could the Book become intelligible and make its appeal to men placed in the midst of these appearances and experiences. This again is the chief reason that it remains unimpaired as revelation, after translation into every language under the sun, of use in every age, country and clime—the universal Book of universal application, ever living, immutable and eternal—the revelation of the one true God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only God, to whom honor and glory belong to the age of ages.

62 Kosmos, “originally order, and hence the order of the world; the ordered universe. So in classical Greek… The word is used here in the classical sense of the visible creation, which would appeal to the Athenians” (Vincent).

63 Reference need only be made to standard works of the Critical school such, as the Encyclopedia Biblica, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, and the bibliographies mentioned in them to realize that such is the case.

64 “Hexateuch,” 371, 372; Hastings’ Diet, of the Bible. A. B. Davidson, himself of the Critical School, says as to its theory, “ Its weakness lies in the incapacity which as yet it has shown to deal with many important details, and particularly in the assumption, absolutely necessary to its case, that the ancient historical books have been edited from a Deuteronomistic point of view.”

65 Though there be contradiction between different accounts as they are given, this furnishes no just ground for discrediting or rejecting either or all of such accounts. Quite often reliable witnesses due to some circumstance not known to either, or to difference in position with respect to what they describe, are found to differ materially in describing the same event or scene. But when such unobserved circumstances or difference in position become part of the evidence, then substantial agreement in their testimony is established and conflicting details reconciled.

66 Heb. 4:12, 13. It is worth noting that what is adduced by the Apostle, in this section of the epistle, as an example of the living, active, and judging character of God’s Word is the much questioned history of the Pentateuch, and one of the Psalms (95) which makes reference to it. Bear in mind, also, that the Holy Spirit is said to speak these words (Ch. 3:7); also Gen. 2:2 is referred to as what “He hath said” (Ch. 4:4).

67 1 Peter 1:10-12.