HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







The science of Introduction to Holy Scripture has for its object to treat of the Books of Inspired Scripture, their Number, the Nature of Inspiration, the Authenticity of the several books, the Canon, the ancient Codices, the Versions of Holy Scripture, the History of the Text, the Decrees of the Church regarding the Holy Books and the Laws of Expounding Holy Scripture.

The existence of inspired writings is a fact warranted by the most convincing data. The tradition of the Jews, the approbation of Christ, the traditions of Christians, the sublimity of the writings, the verification of prophecies, and the universal belief of civilized mankind are alone natural motives of credibility which logically produce certainty. Moreover, those who are incorporated in the organized economy of the New Law have the living voice of the Holy Ghost, declaring through the Church: And this supernatural revelation, according to the faith of the universal Church, declared in the Holy Tridentine Synod, is contained in the written books and unwritten traditions, which have come down to us. [Vat. Council, Cap. II. De Revelatione.]

The existence of divinely inspired Scripture is so essentially bound up with the existence of religion itself that they stand or fall together. Ancient history and modern history make the existence of an authentic written message from God to man a necessity. The writers of the Old Law abundantly proved by miracles the divine commission to deliver in writing the message of God. The great revelation of God through Christ added certainty to certainty; and Christianity continues through the ages to present the proofs of the divinity of the Holy Books. No man will deny that the Christian religion is a fact; and were there no divinely inspired Scriptures, that fact would not have a sufficient cause. The Christian Church draws her life from two fountains, the Holy Scriptures and the living voice of the Holy Ghost within her. Had it so pleased God he could have founded, and could have conserved religion without any written message. However, considering the nature of man, it seems more conformable to the wisdom of God to deliver to man a written deposit which should be an everlasting memorial of Gods teachings. Moreover, religion claims to possess divine Scriptures; the Jews received their Scriptures from Moses and the Prophets, and handed them down to the Christian Church. Jesus Christ appealed to these Scriptures as the infallible message of God; all the writers of the New Testament corroborate the doctrine of the existence of divinely inspired Scriptures. Hence to deny the existence of inspired Books is tantamount to deny that religion exists.

Having once placed as a basic position that there exist divinely inspired writings, the next step is to determine how we may infallibly discern and know what is inspired and what is not. We must establish an adequate criterion, which can discriminate, from all other books, the products of the authorship of God.

Inspiration, in its formal concept, is a supernatural psychological effect, wrought in the mind of the inspired agent by the First Cause. We might define it, using the conciseness and precision of the Latin idiom: Illustratio mentis et motus efficax voluntatis a Deo, ad exprimendum infallibiliter sensum Dei, seu ad exprimenda ea omnia et sola quae Deus vult. Now it is plainly evident that a fact of such nature can be immediately known but to two beings, God and the person inspired.

It must be conceded that many of the inspired writers were conscious of their inspiration. Some explicitly declare that they had received a commission to write: such are Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk and others. David declares: And the man who was raised on high saith, the Anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet Psalmist of Israel: The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was upon my tongue.—2 Sam. 23:1, 2.

But in other inspired books we find no evidence that the author was conscious that he wrote under divine inspiration. The writer of the Second Book of Maccabees declares thus of his work:

And all such things as have been comprised in five books by Jason of Cyrene, we have attempted to abridge in one book.

For considering the multitude of books, and the difficulty that they find that desire to undertake the narrations of histories, because of the multitude of the matter,

We have taken care for those indeed that are willing to read, that it might be a pleasure of mind: and for the studious, that they may more easily commit to memory: and that all that read might receive profit.

And as to ourselves indeed, in undertaking this work of abridging, we have taken in hand no easy task, yea rather a business full of watching and sweat.

But as they that prepare a feast, and seek to satisfy the will of others: for the sake of many, we willingly undergo the labour.

Leaving to the authors the exact handling of every particular, and as for ourselves, according to the plan proposed, studying to be brief.

For as the master builder of a new house must have care of the whole building: but he that taketh care to paint it, must seek out fit things for the adorning of it: so must it be judged for us.

For to collect all that is to be known, to put the discourse in order, and curiously to discuss every particular point, is the duty of the author of a history:

But to pursue brevity of speech, and to avoid nice declarations of things, is to be granted to him that maketh an abridgement. (2 Maccab. 2:24–32.)

The same writer draws his work to a conclusion in the following words:

So these things being done with relation to Nicanor, and from that time the city being possessed by the Hebrews, I also will here make an end of my narration.

Which if I have done well, and as it becometh the history, it is what I desired: but if not so perfectly, it must be pardoned me.—Chap. 15, Ver. 39.

There is strong evidence here that the writer was unconscious of his inspiration.

In the preamble of St. Lukes Gospel we find certain indications that he was not conscious of being an inspired writer. In such books as these therefore there is no intrinsic note to compel us to accept them as divine. It is a generally accepted truth by Catholic theologians that the authors consciousness of his inspiration enters not into the essential constituents of inspiration; but is of the nature of an accessory. Card. Franzelin declares: As in the prophetic impulse to speak which St. Thomas, 2. 2. 173. a. 4, and other theologians distinguish from complete prophecy, (Cfr. Aug. Genes, ad litt. Lib. III. n. 37.), thus also in the inspiration to write it seems not essential that a man be conscious of his inspiration; nevertheless it should not be readily admitted that de facto any of our inspired writers was ignorant of his inspiration (De Div. Trad, et Script. p. 358.) In a note in the same place he declares that it is not proven that any of our inspired writers was ignorant of his inspiration. Crets (De Div. Bib. Insp. Lovanii, 1886) and Pesch (De Insp. Script., 1906) are of the same opinion.

It seems far more probable to us to hold that some were not conscious of their inspiration. The case of the writer of the Second Book of Maccabees is perhaps the clearest instance. Since all admit that this consciousness in no way pertains to the essence of inspiration it seems that it should not be asserted of a book unless there be some evidences of its existence. No such evidences are found there. But waiving this question of fact, our main position is established that divine revelation has not in itself the power of making itself authentically known to man. Even if the inspired agent were conscious of his inspiration, an examination of the issue will convince us that the testimony of the inspired agent, unsupported by the corroborative attestation of God, is not sufficient. In the first place, this means would be subject to hallucination, error, and fraud. Long would be the list of those who, from one or other of these motives, claimed inspiration from God. It would suffice to mention Muhammad and the founder of Mormonism, to specify the weakness of this criterion. But granted that the inspired agent did, in any case, so testify as to merit credence, the faith that these motives of credibility would produce would not be divine faith, which has for its formal motive the authority of God; but, at most, it would be only human faith; for the effect cannot be greater than the cause; and, as the cause of this credibility was not divine but human, the faith, its effect, would be no more than human faith. Now it is exacted that we believe in the Scriptures with a divine faith. Hence, granted that the testimony of the inspired writer might be trustworthy of itself, it could never produce more than human credibility, which is not sufficient to form a basis for absolute and divine faith. No creature can be trusted infinitely, but, when we are dealing with Gods epistle to his creature, absolute trust and certainty are required. It was fitting that an all-provident God should provide man with this means of certitude, and we believe that he has done so, and these considerations are leading us to investigate and establish it. The Prophets and Apostles merited divine faith for what they taught, because they, by miracles, established their divine commission to teach. In such case, this faith was rendered divine by the corroborative attestation of God through these miracles. But how shall man always and in every case be able to discriminate between the divine writings and books of purely human origin? The Prophets are gone, the Apostles are gone; their writings have undergone great vicissitudes. We live amid the dust of systems and of creeds. In this remote age, is there any adequate criterion, in virtue of which man can say, This book is of God, and this other is not? Were there not, God would not have sufficiently provided for man; he would no longer be the Heavenly Father.

Men, who still believe in a personal God, and a definite form of religion, generally admit that some such criterion must exist, but differ widely in defining it.

We do not deny that internal evidences are a partial criterion; but it is not a universal criterion for all the books. For instance there are many places in the New Testament where the books of the Old Testament are cited as Holy Scripture. These explicit quotations are in number about three hundred, and there are many more allusions of less proving force. The citation of a book of the Old Testament by Christ or any inspired writer of the New Testament as Holy Scripture is a subsidiary criterion of inspiration; but it is not an adequate and sufficient criterion, since it does not establish a complete list of the books. Not to mention the deuterocanonical books, there is no mention in the New Testament of Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, the Canticle of Canticles, Obadiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, and Ecclesiastes: Ezekiel is only faintly alluded to. Therefore the testimony of the New Testament is neither complete nor exclusive; but only a positive proof of some books.

A text often used to prove the internal evidences of inspiration in the Scriptures themselves is taken from Second Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy 3:16. The passage, according to the Greek is as follows: Πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος καὶ ὠφέλιμος πρὸς διδασκαλίαν, πρὸς ἔλεγχον, πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν, πρὸς παιδείαν τὴν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ.

The Vulgate renders the passage: Omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata utilis est ad docendum, ad arguendum, ad corripiendum, ad erudiendum in justitia. The Roman Catholic version is in accord with the Vulgate: All Scripture inspired of God is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice. It is evident from a scrutiny of the Greek text that the Vulgate does not adequately reproduce it. No account is taken in such version of the καί, which however appears in all the best codices. The Vulgate expunging καί, would virtually insert the elliptical ἔστι, after ὠφέλιμος, thus making θεόπνευστος a qualifying characteristic, warranting the predication of ὠφέλιμος, of πᾶσαγραφή. By the expunging of the important particle καί, such sense can be gleaned from this passage; but, retaining such conjunction, whose presence rests upon the best data, I am at a loss to understand how they gather the meaning. Moreover, the context and parallel passages demand the sense which results from the retaining of the particle.

Of all the versions, the Ethiopic comes closest to the original. According to the Latin translation of the Ethiopic text by Walton, it is as follows: Et tota scriptura per Spiritum Dei est, et prodest in omni doctrina et eruditione ad corrigendum et instruendum in veritate. Although this ancient and valued text departs somewhat from the verbally literal translation, it reproduces the full sense. We could perhaps literally translate the Greek: All Scripture is divinely inspired and useful to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in righteousness. Thus it is in conformity with the Greek reading, with the Ethiopic, with the context, with other parallel passages, and with some of the best of the Fathers. We may instance one parallel passage: 2 Pet. 1:20–21.

We think then that this sense is sufficiently evidenced so as to become practically certain. The passage thus becomes a direct testimony for the influence of God on Holy Scripture. Indeed, Pauls motive is to induce Timothy to entertain a divine regard for the Holy Writ; and for this reason he brings forward as a proof the divine element in all Scripture. It is not then a discriminative, conditional proposition, but a plain assertion of the authorship of God in the Holy Scripture. But this clear text may not be adduced with any profit as a criterion; because, first of all, it is, as Perrone says, begging the question to prove the divinity of the Holy Books from their own testimony. It is the circulus vitiosus. Again, even to those who grant the divine authority of the Epistle to Timothy, it only avails to prove the impress of the hand of God on Holy Scripture in a general way, but does not distinguish book from book, or form any judgment concerning an official catalogue. We grant then that the text, as well as others of a similar nature, operates to prove the divine impulse of the Holy Ghost on Scripture in general, provided we once have received as granted that these books are of God; but we deny to all such texts any value to discern canonical from uncanonical books.

It is not conformable to the scope of this book to follow the progress of protestantism through all its changes and vagaries. We see in it a constant tendency to limit the divine element in the Holy Scriptures. All the protestant sects began with an exaggerated notion of the nature of the Scriptures. In the beginning Luther seems not to have formulated any theory of inspiration. He accepted the general principles then held by the Church from which he seceded, that God is the author of Holy Scripture, that the inspired writers are Gods instruments, that the inspired writers had received an impulse from the Holy Ghost to write the words and the truths, and that the Holy Scriptures are the infallible word of God, not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in other things, and are free from error, etc. But having once thrown off subjection to authority, with his characteristic genius of audacity, he formulated new theories to meet every emergency in his inconsistent heresy. Luthers opinions present many contradictions, and his defenders are divided against themselves. Speaking of his audacious attitude toward Holy Scripture, Kier (Bedarf es einer besondern Inspirationslehre? 1891, 8) cites Luther as a proof that there is no need of any fixed theory of inspiration, and declares of him: Of Luther the greatest scriptural theologian, well known is his remarkably free judgment, not alone concerning St. James, but also concerning the Epistle to the Hebrews, some of the Prophets, and St. Paul. He read the Bible as a free blessed child of God. This freedom moved him to reject according to his caprice whatever did not please his humor. When the Holy Scriptures pleased him, he extolled them above all other things: But I, against the sayings of the fathers, of men, of angels, of demons, set up not ancient usage, not a multitude of men, but the word of the one eternal Majesty, which they are forced to approve.

This is the work of God, not of us. Here I stand; here I sit; here I remain; here I glory; here I triumph; here I insult papists, Thomists, Henricists, sophists, and all the gates of Hell, and also the sayings of men even though holy, and erring custom. Gods word is above all; Gods power so strengthens me that I should not care if a thousand Augustines, a thousand Cyprians, a thousand Henrician Churches were opposed to me. (Contra Henricum regem, Opera Lat. Ed. Franc. VI. 437.)

But when the papists urged against him the Scriptures, he repudiates the Scriptures: Thou urgest forward the slave, that is the Scriptures, and not the entire Scriptures, nor their better part, but certain places concerning works. I leave this slave to you; I urge forward the Lord, who is the King of the Scriptures, who became to me my merit, and the price of my justification and salvation. Him I hold; to him I cleave, and leave to thee works, which however thou never hast done, (Comment. in Galat. 3:10.)

I care nothing for these. Do thou ever urge on the slave; I am bold in the Lord, who is Lord and King over the Scriptures. I ask not concerning all the sayings of Scripture, even though thou bringest more against me, for I have on my side the Master and Lord of the Scriptures.

The arch deceiver sets at variance with the Lord the message of God himself, and with marvelous arrogance begs the question. To the candid student of history, Luther must ever appear as a clever sophist, who, having thrown off all real belief in religion, played upon the ignorance, superficiality and credulity of the people.

Against the Sacramentarians Luther declared that one tittle of the Scriptures was greater than the heavens and the earth; but in another mood he rejected Scriptures which pleased not his caprice: Finally St. Johns Gospel, and First Epistle, St. Pauls Epistles, especially the Romans, to the Galatians, and that to the Ephesians, and St. Peters First Epistle are the books which present to thee Christ and all things which are necessary and saving, even though thou never see or hear another book or doctrine. Therefore James Epistle compared to these is verily a letter of straw, because it has not in itself the Gospel spirit. (Welches die rechten und edlisten Bücher des N. T. sind; LXIII. 115.)

Of the Apocalypse of St. John, Luther declared: In this book I leave every one to his own opinion, and I ask no one to accept my opinion or judgment. I speak what I feel. Many things are wanting in this book, which move me to hold it as neither apostolic nor prophetic. My spirit is not drawn to the book, and a sufficient cause why I esteem the book no higher is that in it Christ is neither taught nor acknowledged, a thing which first of all an apostle should do. (Vorrede zur Offenbarung St. Johannis, LXIII. 169 et seqq.)

According to Luther, Ecclesiastes should be more complete; much has been excised from it; it has neither boots nor spurs, but rides in socks, as I was wont to do when still in the cloister. (Tischreden 2261, 2262; Ed. Erlang. LXII. 127–131.)

The genius of Luther pervades all protestantism, a false freedom, a subjectivism, and illogical sentimentalism.

Well does Rabaud declare of Luther: His principle of critique was purely subjective: from the intensity with which Christ is preached he determined the inspiration and canonicity of a book. Is not this to abolish the authority of the Bible, and to substitute in its stead the individual conscience? Who shall determine the degree of faithfulness of the inspired writer? Who shall judge the purety of his doctrine? Who shall say if Christ is preached as it behooveth? This principle, in appearance more practical, but in reality equally as subjective as the principles of the other leaders of the Reformation led to the same result, the authority of the individual conscience, a theology read out of the Bible. Luther furnished the first and most remarkable example. By his audacious critique and his independence in regard to the exterior Scriptures, he placed the germs of the subsequent objections which were to shatter and ruin the doctrine of inspiration, which in common with his contemporaries Luther held, but which he admitted only in the passages in harmony with his theology, or his religious sense. (Histoire de la doctrine de linspiration des S. Ecritures dans les pays de langue française, Paris, 1883, 39.)

The seed of rationalism which Luther sowed has produced dreadful fruit. All protestantism has became rationalistic. In our own country no protestant theologian accepts the Bible as the infallible word of God. In the protestant church in America as soon as a man propounds some audacious heresy he is made a hero. Protestant Germany is thoroughly rationalistic. Cardinal Manning had to deplore the drift of non-Catholic thought in England:

It is therefore, no new thing in the history of the Church, nor, indeed, in the history of England since the Reformation. From the Deistical writers down to Thomas Paine, there has never wanted a succession of critics and objectors who have assailed the extrinsic or intrinsic authority of Holy Scripture.

So far it is no new thing. But in one aspect, indeed, it is altogether new. It is new to find this form of scepticism put forth by writers of eminence for dignity and personal excellence, and mental cultivation, in the Church of England; by men, too, who still profess not only a faith in Christianity, but fidelity to the Anglican Church. Hitherto these forms of sceptical unbelief have worked outside the Church of England, and in hostility against it. Now they are within, and professing to be of it, and to serve it. Unpalatable as the truth may be, it is certain that a Rationalistic school imported from Germany has established itself within the Church of England; that its writers are highly respectable and cultivated men, and that though they may be few, yet the influence of their opinions is already widely spread, and that a very general sympathy with them already extends itself among the laity of the Anglican Church. This is certainly a phenomenon altogether new.

Before entering upon the subject of this chapter, it would seem, therefore, to be seasonable to examine briefly the present state of the subject of Inspiration in the Church of England, and contrast with it the teaching of the Catholic Church upon this point.

And first, as to the doctrine of the Church of England on Inspiration, it is to be remembered that though the Canon of Scripture was altered by the Anglican Reformation, the subject of inspiration was hardly discussed. The traditional teaching of the Catholic Theology, with its various opinions, were therefore passively retained. The earlier writers, such as Hooker, repeat the traditional formulas respecting the inspiration and veracity of Holy Scripture. Hookers words are, He (that is, God) so employed them (the Prophets) in this heavenly work, that they neither spake nor wrote a word of their own, but uttered syllable by syllable as the Spirit put it into their mouths. Such was more or less the tone of the chief Anglican writers for a century after the Reformation.

Perhaps the best example of the Anglican teaching on the subject will be found in Whitbys general Preface to his Paraphrase of the Gospels. His opinion is as follows. He begins by adopting the distinction of the Jewish Church between the Prophets and the Chetubin, or holy writers, and therefore between the inspiration of suggestion and the inspiration of direction.

He then lays down—

1. First, that where there was no antecedent knowledge of the matter to be written, an inspiration of suggestion was vouchsafed to the Apostles; but that where such knowledge did antecedently exist, there was only an inspiration exciting them to write such matters, and directing them in the writing so as to preclude all error.

2. Secondly, that in writing those things which were not antecedently known to them, either by natural reason including education, or previous revelation—e.g. the Incarnation, the vocation of the Gentiles, the apostasy of the latter times, the prophecies of the Apocalypse—they had an immediate suggestion of the Holy Spirit.

3. Thirdly, that in all other matters they were directed so as to preclude error, and to confirm the truth whether by illumination in the meaning of the previous revelation, or by reasoning.

4. Fourthly, that in the historical parts of the New Testament they were directed in all that is necessary to the truth of the facts related, but not as to the order or accessories of such events, unless these things affected the truth of the facts.

5. Fifthly, that in relating the words or discourses of our Lord and of others, they were directed so as to preclude all error as to the substance, but not so as to reproduce the words.

6. Lastly, that the inspiration or divine assistance of the sacred writers was such as will assure us of the truth of what they write, whether by inspiration of suggestion, or direction only, but not such as would imply that their very words were dictated, or their phrases suggested to them, by the Holy Ghost.

In Bishop Burnet may be seen a somewhat less explicit tone. He says, The laying down a scheme that asserts an immediate inspiration, which goes to the style, and to every tittle, and that denies any error to have crept into any of the copies, as it seems on the one hand to raise the honor of Scripture very highly, so it lies open on the other hand to great difficulties, which seem insuperable on that hypothesis.

Such was the current teaching of the most respectable class of Anglican divines, men of true learning and of sound judgment, in the best century of the Church of England. But I need quote no more. Let us now examine one or two of the modern opinions on the same subject.

A member of the University of Oxford writes as follows:—The Bible is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the throne. Every book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every word of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High. A member of Trinity College, Dublin, writes as follows:—The opinion that the subject-matter alone of the Bible proceeded from the Holy Spirit, while its language was left to the unaided choice of the various writers, amounts to that fantastic notion which is the grand fallacy of many theories of Inspiration; namely, that two different spiritual agencies were in operation, one of which produced the phraseology in its outward form, while the other created within the soul the conceptions and thoughts of which such phraseology was the expression. The Holy Spirit, on the contrary, as the productive principle, embraces the entire activity of those whom He inspires, rendering their language the word of God. The entire substance and form of Scripture, whether resulting from revelation or natural knowledge, are thus blended together into one harmonious whole. Once more. Dr. Arnold writes as follows: An inspired work is supposed to mean a work to which God has communicated His own perfections; so that the slightest error or defect of any kind in it is inconceivable, and that which is other than perfect in all points cannot be inspired. This is the unwarrantable interpretation of the word Inspiration.… Surely many of our words and many of our actions are spoken and done by the inspiration of Gods Spirit.… Yet does the Holy Spirit so inspire us as to communicate to us His own perfections? Are our best works or words utterly free from error or from sin? Mr. Jowett, in his well-known Essay on the Interpretation of Scripture, after reciting the commonly-received theories of inspiration, proceeds as follows:—Nor for any of the higher or supernatural views of Inspiration is there any foundation in the Gospels or Epistles. There is no appearance in their writings that the Evangelists or Apostles had any inward gift, or were subject to any power external to them different from that of preaching or teaching which they daily exercised; nor do they anywhere lead us to suppose that they were free from error or infirmity.… The nature of Inspiration can only be known from the examination of Scripture. There is no other source to which we can turn for information; and we have no right to assume some imaginary doctrine of Inspiration like the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church. To the question, What is Inspiration? the first answer therefore is, That idea of Scripture which we gather from the knowledge of it. Dr. Williams says, In the Bible, as an expression of devout reason, and therefore to be read with reason in freedom, he [Bunsen] finds a record of the spiritual giants whose experience generated the religious atmosphere we breathe.

I do not undertake to do more than recite these opinions of clergymen of the Church of England. It is not for us to say what is the authoritative doctrine of that body; but it has been recently declared by the highest Ecclesiastical tribunal, that the views of Inspiration last given are not inconsistent with the Anglican formularies. Dr. Lushington expressed himself as follows:—As to the liberty of the Anglican clergy to examine and determine the text of Scripture, I exceedingly … doubt if this liberty can be extended beyond the limits I have mentioned, namely, certain verses or parts of Scripture. I think it could not be permitted to a clergyman to reject the whole of one of the books of Scripture.

It is evident from the above quotations that the theory of Inspiration among many prominent men in the Anglican Church has been moving in the direction of the German Neology: (Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost pp. 138–145.)

The tendency deplored by Manning has continued until now in protestant thought the Bible is a very secondary thing.

Dr. Driver, canon of Christchurch, Oxford, in his work on the Literature of the Old Testament, quotes with approval the following words of Professor Sanday, in regard to inspiration:

In all that relates to the revelation of God and of His Will, the writers of the Bible assert for themselves a definite inspiration; they claim to speak with an authority higher than their own. But with regard to the narration of events, and to processes of literary composition, there is nothing so exceptional about them as to exempt them from the conditions to which other works would be exposed at the same time and place. Dub. Review, 1893, p. 533.

Driver himself declares that, applied to the Bible, as a whole, the expression Word of God seems to savour of the old theory of inspiration, which no one now cares to maintain. (Drivers Sermons on the Old Test. p. 158.)

But it may be said: These are the opinions of individual Anglicans; men of influence and learning no doubt, but still only individuals; they do not necessarily represent the formal teaching of the Church. What is the attitude of the bishops on this important question? What is the view of the ecclesia docens on inspiration?

One thing may safely be said: a remarkable harmony pervades their lordships words on the subject. Whether their teaching is likely to throw much light on the matter, we leave our readers to decide from the few specimens we adduce. We heartily concur with the majority of our opponents, says the Bishop of Gloucester, in Aids to Faith, p. 404, in rejecting all theories of inspiration. Our Church, says Bishop Thirlwall, charge for 1863, has never attempted to determine the nature of the inspiration of sacred Scriptures. If you ask me, writes Dr. Cotton, Bishop of Calcutta, for a precise theory of Inspiration, I confess I can only urge you to repudiate all theories; to apply to theology the maxim which guided Newton in philosophy, hypotheses non fingo. Finally, to take one more instance, the Bishop of Winchester writes: It seems pretty generally agreed, that definite theories of inspiration are doubtful and dangerous. (Manning, op. cit.)

When Dr. Frederick Temple was appointed Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury many took the appointment as a total surrender by the Anglican Church to the spirit of rationalism.

Mr. Jesse Locke thus speaks of Mr. Temples theology:

What sort of theology has been enthroned at Canterbury? What idea of religion does he hold and teach who now occupies what Anglicans like to call the chair of St. Augustine? Fortunately for our inquiry Dr Temples views on religion are easily accessible. He was the first essayist in a volume published in 1861, and entitled Essays and Reviews. This book was the signal for a blaze of controversy. Its authors were clergymen of the Church of England, and its teaching was the frankest, boldest rationalism, which emasculated religion of the supernatural, and reduced it to a purely humanitarian basis. Orthodox, evangelical protestants—pious but illogical—were deeply shocked. A few quotations will give an idea of what the essayist taught on some important subjects.

Dr. Temple, in his opening essay, The Education of the World, plants himself squarely on that fundamental protestant principle of which rationalism is the necessary and legitimate fruit. The ulitmate basis for religion, he claims, is to be found only in that inner voice which should guide every man. There is nothing external which can be an authority; neither is the church. The Bible, he says, in fact is hindered by its form from exercising a despotism over the human spirit.… The inner voice by the principle of private judgment puts conscience between us and the Bible, making conscience the supreme interpreter, whom it may be a duty to enlighten, but whom it can never be a duty to disobey (Essays and Reviews,p. 53). Again: When conscience and the Bible appear to differ, the pious Christian immediately concludes that he has not really understood the Bible. That is, his private judgment is certainly right, and the Bible must be made to conform to it! This reduces religion to the purest individualism; makes as many different religions as there are individuals to hold them. And all are equally right! Suppose this principle applied to the law of the land, each man assuming that the law had no other interpreter than his own inner voice!

Mr. Locke then gives us a number of quotations from the essays of other writers in the same volume of Essays and Reviews, and though the usual statement was found in the preface, to the effect that each essayist was responsible for his own essay alone, Dr. Temple has, in the writers judgment, made himself responsible for the views of these other writers by his failure to repudiate them. Some of these other essayists spoke of the doctrine of inspiration as absurd, explained away the Messianic prophecies, characterizing as distortion the application of Isaiahs prophecies to the Messiah, and upheld the idea of a true national church as one that should include all the people of the nation, who should be born into membership in the church as they are born into civil rights. Refering to Mr. Temples Bampton lectures, 1884, Mr. Locke writes:

As to miracles, those of the Old Testament, he tells us, could never be proved. The times are remote; the date and authorship of the books are not established with certainty; the mixture of poetry with history is no longer capable of any sure separation into its parts (p. 206). In the New Testament, he adds, we must admit that some unusual occurrences took place which struck the disciples and other observers as miracles, though they need not necessarily have been miracles in the scientific sense. For instance, the miraculous healing of the sick may be no miracle in the strictest sense at all. It may be but an instance of the power of mind over body, a power which is undeniably not yet brought within the range of science, and which nevertheless may be really within its domain (p. 195). Our Lords miracles of healing may have been simply the result of this power and due to a superiority of this mental power to the similar power possessed by other men. Men seem to possess this power over their own bodies and over the bodies of others in different degrees (p. 201). Even our Lords resurrection from the dead is reached by this destructive criticism. Thus, for instance, it is quite possible that our Lords resurrection may be found hereafter to be no miracle at all in the scientific sense. It foreshadows and begins the general resurrection; when that general resurrection comes we may find that it is, after all, the natural issue of physical laws always at work (p. 196).

If we ask, What, then, can be the object of miracles? Dr. Temple has his answer ready. If these events, though not really miraculous, have served their purpose, if they have arrested attention which would not otherwise have been arrested, if they have compelled belief, then they have accomplished their true end. In other words, they were pious frauds impressing a people naturally credulous and easily deceived, as the best way of conveying ethical truth to them. The protestant tradition persists in giving to the Society of Jesus the possession of The end justifies the means as a principle of conduct; but Dr. Temple goes farther still, and carries the charge back from His faithful servants to the great Master Himself!

For these views of the new archbishop, says Mr. Locke, the Anglican Church must be held responsible, since it has twice passed in review of them and refused to condemn either him or them, and has now received him as its head.

In May, 1904, Professor Marcus Dods of New College, Edinburgh, delivered a course of lectures before Lake Forest College, Ill. on The Bible: Its Origin and Nature.

In his lecture on the Canon of Scripture he candidly declares:

If you ask a Romanist why he accepts certain books as canonical, he has a perfectly intelligible answer ready. He accepts these books because the Church bids him do so. The Church has determined what books are canonical, and he accepts the decision of the Church. If you ask a protestant why he believes that just these books bound up together in his Bible are canonical, and neither more nor fewer, I fear that ninety-nine protestants out of a hundred could give you no answer that would satisfy a reasonable man. The protestant scorns the Romanist because he relies on the authority of the Church, but he cannot tell you on what authority he himself relies. The protestant watchword is, The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, but how many protestants are there who could make it quite clear that within the boards of their Bible they have the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible? If you asked them to show you that no canonical writing has been omitted and that no uncanonical writing has been received, how will they proceed to do so? If you ask the average protestant to say why he receives the second Epistle of Peter, which a large part of the early Church declined to receive, or why he accepts the Epistle of James, regarding which Luther himself was more than doubtful,—what can he say but that the Church to which he belongs receives them? In other words, what is the difference between the protestant and the Romanist on this cardinal point of canonicity? Do not protestants and Romanists alike accept their canonical books at the hands of the Church?

After reviewing the Catholic position superficially he endeavors to establish a protestant criterion by appealing to the direct influence of God upon the individual. Luther is his hero:

There were two questions which Luther found himself driven to answer: What assures me that Scripture is the Word of God, and therefore authoritative? and, What books are Scripture? Prior to the question, What is the Canon of inspired Scripture? comes the question, Is there an inspired Scripture? Prior to the question, What writings contain the Word of God? comes the question, Is there a Word of God? We cannot understand Luthers answer to the one question unless we recognize his attitude toward the other.

Now, according to Luther, the prior question, Is there a Word of God? or, Has God spoken? is answered in the affirmative, and with certainty, by every man in whom the Word of God attests its own Divine origin and authority, and it can be answered with an assured affirmative by none beside. Luthers explicit and constant teaching is that this word is self-evidencing, and needs no authority at its back, but carries in it its own authentication. Let us hear some of his strong statements to this effect. Showing that the question between himself and Rome was not whether God was to be obeyed when he spoke,—for they were agreed as to that,—he goes on: The Romanists say, Yes, but how can we know what is Gods word, and what is true or false? We must learn it from the Pope and the Councils. Very well, let them decree and say what they will, still say I, Thou canst not rest thy confidence thereon, nor satisfy thy conscience: thou must thyself decide, thy neck is at stake, thy life is at stake. Therefore must God say to thee in thine heart, This is Gods Word, else it is still undecided. Again: Thou must be as certain that it is the Word of God as thou art certain that thou livest, and even more certain, for on this alone must thy conscience rest. And even if all men came, even the angels and all the world, and determined something, if thou canst not form nor conclude the decision, thou art lost. For thou must not place thy decision on the Pope or any other, thou must thyself be so skilful that thou canst say, God says this, not that; this is right, that is wrong; else it is not possible to endure. Dost thou stand upon Pope or Concilia? Then the Devil may at once knock a hole in thee and insinuate, How if it were false? how if they have erred? Then thou art laid low at once. Therefore thou must bring conscience into play, that thou mayst boldly and defiantly say, That is Gods word; on that will I risk body and life, and a hundred thousand necks if I had them. Therefore no one shall turn me from the word which God teaches me, and that must I know as certainly as that two and three make five, that an ell is longer than a half. That is certain, and though all the world speak to the contrary, still I know that it is not otherwise. Who decides me there? No man, but only the truth which is so perfectly certain that nobody can deny it.

Why is Luther so urgent on this point? He is urgent because he sees that the whole difference between himself and Rome hinges here. If he cannot make good this position, that the truth or the Word of God has power to verify itself as such to the conscience it awakens, he has no standing at all. The principle which made him a protestant, and which constitutes men protestants always, is simply this, that the soul needs not the intervention of any authority to bring it into contact with God and the truth, but that God and His truth have power to verify themselves to the individual. Luther did not accept the Gospel because it was written in a book he believed to be inspired, or canonical, or the word of God; but he accepted it because it brought new life to his spirit and proved itself to be from God. He did not accept Christ because he had first of all accepted the Scriptures, but he accepted the Scriptures because they testified of a Christ he felt constrained to accept. In short, it is the truth which the Scriptures contain which certify him that they are the word of God; it is not his belief that they are the word of God which certifies him of the truth they contain. The proclamation of Gods grace quickening a new life within him convinced him this proclamation was from God.

The difference between the Romanist and the protestant is not what it is so often said to be, that the Romanist accepts the Church as his infallible authority, while the protestant accepts the Scriptures as his infallible authority. The Romanist equally with the protestant accepts the authority of Scripture. The difference lies deeper. The difference lies here: that the Romanist accepts Scripture as the word of God because the Church tells him so, the protestant accepts it as the word of God because God tells him so. The protestant believes it to be Gods word because through it God has spoken to him in such sort as to convince him that it is God who here speaks. This is the one sure foundation-stone of protestantism,—the response of the individual conscience to the self-evidencing voice of God in Scripture. He does not need to go to the Church to ask if this be Gods word; his conscience tells him it is. Deeper than that for a foundation of faith you cannot get, and any faith that is not so deeply founded is insecure—it may last, and it may bring a man to all needed benefit, but it is not reasonably defensible, and therefore it is liable to be upset.

This, then, was Luthers first position regarding Scripture; this was the fundamental position on which protestantism is reared; viz. that through Scripture God Himself so speaks to the soul that the man is convinced without the intervention of any other proof or authority that this is the word of God. The individual does not need the Church to tell him that this is the word of God. God tells him so, and makes all other authority superfluous.

But next comes the question, What writings contain this word? Are we to carry through this fundamental principle, and maintain that only such writings can be accounted Scripture as approve themselves to be Gods word by renewing or building up the fundamental faith in God which has already been quickened within us? This fundamental principle of protestantism—that Gods word is self-evidencing—can we carry it over to the subject of canonicity and make it the sole, absolute test of canonicity? Or can we at any rate say that whatever agrees with the word of God, which at first begot faith in us, and presents to us the same Gospel and the same Christ is canonical? This Luther does, subject to the limitation that it springs from the Apostolic Circle. Or can we only use this fundamental faith of our own as a negative test, rejecting whatever does not harmonize with that faith in Christ which has given us spiritual life, or at any rate whatever contradicts it? In other words, can I say that all those writings are canonical which awaken faith in me? or can I say that all those writings are canonical which present that same Christ, whose presentation at first awakened faith in me; or can I only say that those are certainly not canonical which do not harmonize with faith in Christ?

Now we shall find Luthers answer to these questions in the judgments he pronounced on the books actually forming our Canon. Taking up his translation of the New Testament, we find that the four writings—Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation—which he considered to be non-apostolic, are relegated to the end by themselves, and introduced with these significant words: Up to this point we have been dealing with the quite certain (rechten gewissen) chief books (Hauptbuecher) of the New Testament. But these four following have in times past had a different position. He then goes on to prove briefly but convincingly that Hebrews is not by Paul nor by any Apostle, and after extolling its ability, and pointing out what he considered faulty, he remarks that although the writer does not lay the foundation of faith, which is the apostolic function, he yet builds upon it gold, silver, precious stones, and if, in accordance with Pauls words, he mingles some wood, hay, stubble, this is not to hinder us from accepting with all reverence his teaching—although it cannot in all respects be compared to the Apostolic Epistles. His criticisms on the Apocalypse are also very outspoken: My spirit, he says, cant accommodate itself to this book: the reason being that I do not think Christ is taught therein. His judgment of this book, however, underwent considerable modification; and although, in contradistinction to the body of modern critics, he seems never to have been convinced that it was written by the Apostle John, it is not probable that in his later years he would have spoken of it so slightingly. But in his introductory remarks to the Epistle of James he shows more explicitly his criterion or test of canonicity. He refuses to admit this epistle among the Hauptbuecher of the New Testament, or to allow its apostolic authorship, and he defends his judgment in these words: Herein agree all the genuine (rechtschaffene) holy books, that they all preach and exhibit Christ. This, indeed, is the right touchstone (der rechte Pruefstein) to test all the books,—if one sees whether or not they present Christ, for all Scripture witnesses to Christ (Rom. 3:21); and St. Paul will know nothing but Christ. That which does not teach Christ is not apostolic, though St. Peter or St. Paul teaches it. That which preaches Christ is apostolic, though Judas, Annas, Pilate, or Herod teaches it.

Luthers direct test of canonicity, then, is, Does the book in question occupy itself with Christ or does it not? So says Dorner: The deciding principle as to whether a writing is to pass for canonical lies, in a dogmatic aspect, according to Luther, as well known, in this, whether it is occupied with Christ. Luther, in short, recognizes that God has an end to secure in making a revelation, and this end is to bring clear before men His will for our salvation; or, in one word, Christ. The books that promote this end he accepts as canonical.

But while this was Luthers final and determining test of canonicity, it is obvious that he at the same time employed some preliminary test. He applied his final test, not to all books he knew, but only to a number already selected and already passing for canonical. He never thought of carrying his principle through all literature and accepting as canonical every book that was occupied with Christ. He did not accept Augustine and Tauler as canonical, though to them he in great part owed his salvation, his peace, his light, his strength. And it may, on the other hand, be questioned whether, with all his boldness, he would have dared to reject any writing which was proved to be of apostolic authorship In point of fact he does not reject any such writing. His test of canonicity is, in short, only a supplemental principle which can be applied only in a field already defined by the application of some other principle, or by some universal usage such as the Church-collection of Scriptures had sprung from. Luthers method is really this: he first accepts at the hand of Jerome certain candidates for admission into the Canon, and to these selected candidates he applies this test. He was aware that up to Jeromes time the Church had always been in doubt regarding certain of these writings, and to these he freely applies the testing question, Are they occupied with Christ?

Theoretically, therefore, Reuss is right in saying that Luther did not look upon the Canon as a collection, more or less complete, of all the writings of a certain period or of a certain class of men, but as a body of writings destined by God to teach a certain truth; and accordingly the test of the individual writings must at bottom lie in the teaching itself. But practically what Luther did was to apply this test only to writings which already had some claim to be considered apostolical. The course of his thought was briefly this: he arrived at faith in Christ before he reached any clear view of the inspiration or canonicity of certain writers; he reached faith in Christ apart from any doctrine regarding Scripture. But having believed in Christ, he found that certain men had been appointed by Christ to witness to the great facts of His life, death, resurrection, and gift of the Spirit. The same faith which accepts Christ as supreme, the same faith which produces self-verifying results in his soul compels him also to believe that the commission of Christ to His Apostles was actually effectual, and that they are the appointed, normative witnesses to Him and His salvation. The writings of these Apostles he accepts, though holding himself free to reject them if they contradict the fundamental faith in Christ which gave him his new life. The other books, whose authorship is doubtful, but which from the first have claimed admittance to the New Testament Canon, he judges purely on their merits, rejecting or admitting as he finds they do not or do fit into the apostolic teaching.

This, it will be said, leaves a ragged edge on the Canon. It leaves much to be decided by the individual. A man may say to Luther, I do not find in the gospel of John agreement with the three synoptic gospels, and as you throw over James because he does not agree with Paul, so I throw over John because he does not agree with the synoptists. And Luther could have made no satisfactory reply. Better, he would think, let a man accept Scripture from his own feeling of its truth than compel him to do so by some external compulsion. Indeed, his boldness in pronouncing his own opinion is quite equalled by his explicit and repeated allowance of liberty to every other man. Thus, though he himself did not accept the Apocalypse as the work of John, he hastens to add, No man ought to be hindered from holding it to be a work of St. John or otherwise as he will. Similarly, after giving his opinion of the Epistle of James, he concludes, I cannot then place it among the chief books, but I will forbid no one to place and elevate it as he pleases. So that if we find ourselves in disagreement with Luther regarding the judgments he pronounces on some of the books of Scripture, this is only what he himself anticipated. Neither does the fact that his principle can never be applied without such discordant results emerging, reflect any discredit on the principle itself. As Reuss says, To begin to speak to-day of the infatuation of Luthers method of procedure, because in the details of its application one cannot always share in his opinion, this only proves that with the modern champions of a pretended, privileged orthodoxy, ignorance and fatuity go hand and hand in the van.

The same vagueness which marred the Lutheran doctrine of canonicity affected the Calvinistic position. The inward witness cannot reasonably be expected to be sufficient for the task of certifying every word that God has uttered to man. It cannot, in other words, be expected to form of itself a sufficient test of canonicity.

The truth is there seems to have been some confusion of thought in Calvinistic writers, arising from the fact that in speaking of the authority of Scripture they viewed Scripture as a whole. Challenged by the Romanists to say how they knew the Bible to be from God, they said, We know it to be from God because Gods Spirit within us recognizes it as His. But this inward witness could only become a test of canonicity if the Bible were an indissoluble whole, part hanging with part, so that each part stands or falls with every other part.

If, in order to prove the canonicity of all the writings in the Bible, it were enough to say, the Spirit within me recognizes Gods voice in the Bible as a whole, then this were a sufficient test. If, in order to prove the canonicity of the Epistle of James, it were enough to say, I recognize the voice of God in the Epistle of John, then the inward witness of the Spirit would be a sufficient test. But the very thing we are seeking for is that which brought the parts together, the principle on which the Church proceeded when it took one writing here and another there and brought them into one whole. What is it which is characteristic of each part, so that even when the parts were lying separate, they could be and were recognized as properly belonging to the Canonical Scriptures? The question seeking solution is, why do we receive this or that book into the Canon? There is no question here as to whether we have a word of God, nor as to the general collection of writings in which we find that word; the question is, how do we know that the Epistle to the Hebrews or the Epistle of Jude, or any other individual writing, is the word of God?

The Westminster Confession makes inspiration the test of canonicity, although it does not in express terms say so. After naming the books of the Old and New Testament, it proceeds, all which are given by inspiration of God; and then in section three it goes on, The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of Divine inspiration, are no part of the Canon of Scripture. That is to say, writings which are inspired are canonical, writings not inspired are not canonical. But how are we to discover what writings are inspired? The Confession, singularly enough, says nothing of prophetic and apostolic authorship, but refers us to the various marks of divinity in the writings themselves, and concludes in the well-known words, Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and Divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.

There are two processes by which we can arrive at the conclusion that a writing is inspired. First, as in reading any book we form an opinion of it, and either pronounce it stupid or feel in it the touch of genius, so in reading the work of an inspired man we may arrive at the conclusion that it has been written with Divine aid. There may be that in it which makes us feel that we have to do with a Divine as well as a human author. Second, we may believe in the inspiration of a book, because we first of all believe in Christ, and find that He authorized certain persons to speak in His name and with His authority and spirit. When the wellauthenticated writings of such persons come into our hands, we accept them, if we are already Christian.

But there are books in the Bible whose inspiration cannot be ascertained by either of these methods. There are books of which we cannot say that they are written by prophet or apostle or otherwise commissioned person; Chronicles, Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes,—no one knows who wrote these books. One of the methods of ascertaining inspiration is therefore closed to us. And as to the other method, the inward witness, I am not persuaded that John Owen himself could have detected the book of Esther as an inspired book, had it been found lying outside the Canon. How, then, can we justify the admission of such a book as Esther—a book of which the authorship is unknown, and to which the inward witness bears at the best a somewhat doubtful testimony so far as regards its inspiration?

To say that we accept it because the Jews accepted it, is simply to fall back to the Romanist position and take our Canon at the hands and by the authority of the Church. To affirm that the men who settled the Canon were inspired, is to assume what cannot be proved, and even to affirm what we know to be false, because discussion was still going on among the Jews regarding their Canon as late as the year 96 A. D. We can only justify the admission of these books on some such general ground as that of Luther—their congruity to the main end of revelation. If by canonical writings we mean the writings through which God conveys to us the knowledge of the revelation He has made, if this be the prominent idea, and if their being the rule of faith and life be an inference from this, then we get a broader basis for the Canon and can admit into it all writings which have a direct connection with Gods revelation of Himself in Christ. If the book in question gives us a link in the history of that revelation, or if it represents a stage of Gods dealings and of the growth His people had made under these dealings, and if it contains nothing which is quite inconsistent with the idea of its being inspired, then its claim to be admitted seems valid. Therefore I would be disposed to say that the two attributes which give canonicity are congruity with the main end of revelation and direct historical connection with the revelation of God in history.

It may indeed be said that if such a book as Esther were lost, nothing that is essential to the history would be lost, or that if several of the Psalms were lost nothing essential would be lost. But this is really to say no more than that a man who has lost a joint of a finger or a toe has lost nothing essential. No doubt he can live on and do his work, but he is not a complete man. And there are parts of the body of which it is very difficult to say why they are there, or why they are of the particular form they are; but there they are, and the want of them would seem a deformity. So of the Bible, we may not be able to say of every part that it its exact relation to the whole; nor yet may we be able in honesty to say that we think anything essential would be lost were certain portions of Scripture to be removed; and yet he would be a rash man who would dare to aver that he could improve upon the Canon, or who should think it needful to excise from it such parts as to himself may seem unimportant.

From all this, then, we must gather (1) that churches should be cautious in speaking of the Canon as an absolutely defined collection of writings, thoroughly and to a nicety ascertained, based on distinct principles and precisely separated at every point from all extracanonical literature. There is no reasonable doubt that the bulk of the books of the New Testament come to us so accredited that to reject them is equivalent to rejecting the authority of Christ; but a few are not so accredited, and it is a question whether our creeds ought not to reflect the fact that in the early Church some books were universally admitted into the Canon, while regarding seven of the books of our New Testament grave doubts were entertained. The position taken by one of the greatest champions of protestantism, Chillingworth, is one that commends itself: I may believe even those questioned books to have been written by the Apostles and to be canonical; but I cannot in reason believe this of them so undoubtedly as of those books which were never questioned: at least I have no warrant to damn any man that shall doubt of them or deny them now, having the example of saints in heaven, either to justify or excuse such their doubting or denial. This was the position of Luther and of the Reformers generally, and for my part I think it a pity it was ever abandoned. It is not a calamity over which one need make great moan, but unquestionably the combining of less authenticated books with those that are thoroughly authenticated has rather tended to bring the latter class under suspicion with persons ignorant of their history.

We also gather (2) what ought to be the attitude of the ordinary lay protestant toward this subject of the Canon. Sometimes Romanists have taunted us with the absurdity of inviting each protestant, educated or uneducated, to settle the Canon for himself. The taunt is based on a misconception. It is the right of every protestant to inquire into the evidence on which certain books are received as canonical, and the more that right is exercised, the better. But even when the right is not used, it is not thereby resigned. Protestants receive the Canon as they receive historical facts, on the testimony of those who have pursued this line of inquiry. We may never have individually looked into the evidence for Alexanders invasion of India, but we take it on the word of those best informed regarding historical matters, reserving of course the right to examine it ourselves if need arises. So on this subject of the Canon, the lay protestant accepts the judgment of the Reformed Churches, feeling tolerably confident that after all the research and discussion which learned men have spent upon this subject, the result cannot be seriously misleading. But he of course reserves the right to inquire for himself if opportunity should arise, and does not dream that the decision of the Church binds him to accept certain books as Divine. The protestant accepts the decision of the Church precisely as he accepts the decision of engineers or medical men or experts of any kind in their respective departments—he accepts it as the result arrived at after deliberation by competent men. The Romanist accepts the decision of the Church as a decree of law issued because the Church wills it so, and not as the mere finding of learned men; and the Romanist has no right to revise the Churchs decision. The Romanist holds that the Church has power to make books canonical; the protestant holds that irrespective of any ecclesiastical decision there is that in the books themselves which makes them canonical. To confound the two positions is ignorant or malicious.

(3) Again, protestants are taunted with the diversity of opinion consequent on leaving such questions to individual research and private judgment. I reply that it is a vast advantage so to leave such questions, for it is to invite investigation, and to invite investigation is to secure that one day the truth will shine in the eye of the world. What value attaches to the unanimity that is secured by closing every ones eyes, and shutting every ones mouth? That unanimity alone is valuable which the truth itself commands. And this unanimity can only be attained by diligent, reverent, truth-seeking investigation. For my part, I think Luther was right in holding that regarding some of the books there must be difference of opinion always; but of the great bulk of the New Testament,—the four Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles of Paul, the First of Peter, and the First of John,—as there was no difference of opinion in the early Church, so eventually there will be an entire agreement. Men do not differ regarding the authorship of Hamlet, nor the esteem in which that writing should be held, neither will private judgment and liberty of criticism cause men to differ regarding the canonical books, but will rather bring them to the only agreement that is worth having.

Lastly, let us remember that the true protestant order is, first, faith in Christ; second, faith in Scripture. Our faith in Christ does not hang upon our faith in Scripture, but our faith in Scripture hangs upon our faith in Christ. Our faith in Christ may depend on Scripture as a true history; but not as an inspired canonical book. It is Christ as presented in Scripture or by other means, by preaching as in the first age, and often now, that evokes faith. He and he only is the true protestant who knows that God has spoken to him in Christ, and who knows this irrespective of any infallible authority separable from Christ himself, whether that authority be the authority of the Church or the authority of Scripture. We must not shift the ultimate authority form Christ to Scripture.

We have presented this long quotation as it sums up the position of what might be considered the most conservative protestantism. The very principle on which protestantism was founded must lead to rationalism and it has led to it. Outside the Catholic Church dogma is decried as narrow and bigoted, and the Scriptures are only stray records of mans striving after God. According to them the Scriptures are the product of the thought of successive ages, and reflect the evolution of Mans conceptions of the Deity, and of his state of culture. Much therefore in them is to be attributed to the erroneous ideas of that cruder age, and therefore now must be discarded, as not in harmony with our finer ideas. When Dods wrote his statement he had not read Tolstois criticism of Hamlet.

The force with which these liberal ideas are propounded and the popularity which they acquire have led astray some of the members of the Catholic Church. The progress of the movement evoked from the venerable Head of the Church a powerful denunciation in his address to the newly created cardinals on April 18, of the present year. We quote the following short passage:

For these modern heretics, the Holy Scripture is not a sure source of all the truths concerning faith, but an ordinary book. For them inspiration reduces itself to dogmatic doctrines understood in their own fashion, and differs but little from the poetic inspiration of Æschylus and of Homer. According to them the legitimate interpreter of the Bible is the Church, but the Church subject to the rules of so called critical science which dominates and enslaves theology. As for tradition, everything is relative and subject to mutations, consequently the authority of the holy Fathers is reduced to a nullity. All these numerous errors are propagated by means of pamphlets, reviews, books on asceticism, and even novels. These errors are wrapt up in certain ambiguous terms and in vague forms in order that there may be always an opening for defense, so as not to incur a formal condemnation while at the same time the unwary may be taken in the toils.

The protestant subjectivism crude and indefinite in Luther, was more definitely formulated by Zwinglius, Calvin, and their followers. Thus Zwinglius declares: I know that I am taught of God because I feel him. Let no one raise the objection: How knowest thou that thou art taught of God? When I was a youth I had not progressed more in human knowledge than my equals. But when seven or eight years ago I began to devote myself entirely to the Scriptures, the philosophy and theology of cavilers continually aimed at me objections. Wherefore relying on the Scriptures and the word of God I came to this conclusion: Thou must leave all, and learn the pure teaching of God from his own plain word. Then I began to ask God for light, and the Scriptures, though I read only them, they began to be much clearer than if I read many commentaries and commentators. (Huldreich Zwinglis Werke, I. 79).

Relying on this same spirit Zwinglius declares of Luther: Clearly and dispassionately I shall show that in the doctrine of this sacrament (the Eucharist) the almighty God has not revealed the secrets of his counsels to Martin Luther. (Ibid.)

For his criterion Calvin appeals to the secret testimony of the Spirit, arcanum testimonium Spiritus: It remains therefore firmly established that the Scripture is αὐτόπιστον: neither is it right to subject the Scriptures to the logical demonstration; and the Spirit establishes a certitude by his testimony.… Illumined therefore by his power we conclude with certainty, no less than if we saw in them the divinity of God himself, that by the ministry of men they have come down to us from the mouth of God. (Instit. Christ. Rel. 6).

Calvin admitted as subsidiary helps the harmony, dignity, truth, simplicity, power, and sublimity of the Scriptures.

In the year 1675 Henry Heidegger drew up a Helvetian Formula in which this declaration occurs: The Hebrew text of the Old Testament which we have received from the Jewish church, to which of old the oracles of God were committed, we receive and hold fast, both the consonants and the vowel points, or at least their value, and we hold both the truths and the words to be inspired. (Niemeyer Collect. Conf.)

This extreme formula was abrogated in 1725. All the Calvinist formulas, the Gallican, Scotch, Belgian, Anglican, and Bohemian, set up the testimony of the Spirit as the criterion of inspiration.

The Westminister Conf. I. 5 reads thus: We may be moved and influenced by the testimony of the Church to a high and reverent esteem of the holy scripture, and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of mans salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the word of God; yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Ghost bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.

We see a general tendency in protestantism to appeal to the tradition of the Jews as a criterion of the Old Testament. Thus John Gerhard (De Locis Theol.) declares: That a book of the Old Testament should be canonical, it is necessary that it should be written in the prophetic, that is, the Hebrew tongue.

Hence those protestants who saw the futility of the subjective criterion were more anxious to find a criterion for the New Testament. John David Michælis of Göttingen († 1791) rejected all subjective criterions, and established for the New Testament one criterion, to wit, that a book of the New Testament is canonical if written by one who has received the Apostolic commission. He therefore rejected the Gospels of Mark and Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

(Einleitung in die Göttlichen Schriften des Neuen Bundes.)

Concerning the affirmative sense of this statement Catholic theologians differ. Perrone and Franzelin, and more recently Crets (De Div. Insp.) Schmid, Chauvin, Zanecchia, Scheeben, Heinrich, Hurter, and Pesch (De Insp. Sac. Script. Friburgi 1906) deny it; Ubaldi (Introd. in S. Script. 1878) and Schanz (Apologie) defend it. However it seems certain that if an apostle wrote as a teacher of the faithful, on a theme connected with religion, his writings ipso facto would be inspired. In other words whenever an apostle exercised his apostolic office of teaching he was inspired, whether he spoke or wrote.

But Michælis criterion is inadequate, because the apostolic commission is not an exclusive condition of an inspired writer. No one now would accept a criterion that excludes Mark, Luke and Acts. Again a criterion must tell me not only that, if a book be written under certain conditions, it is inspired, but it must tell me that certain definite books unconditionally are inspired. What avails it, if a man tell me that, if the Second Epistle of Peter be written by him, it is inspired? What I must know is that it is the word of God.

It is evident that the subsidiary criteria appealed to by Calvin are not sufficient to form a criterion. The Imitation of Christ, and certain sermons of the Fathers are more sublime than Chronicles and Ezra. The inner voice is repudiated by candid protestants.

John David Michælis, the learned professor of Göttingen, speaks thus of this means: This interior sensation of the effects of the Holy Ghost, and the conviction of the utility of these writings to better the heart and purify us are entirely uncertain criterions. As regards this interior sensation, I avow that I have never experienced it, and those who have felt it are not to be envied. It cannot evince the divine character of the book, since the Muhammadans feel it as well as Christians, and pious sentiments can be aroused by documents purely human, by the writings of philosophers, and even by doctrine founded in error. (Einleitung in die Göttlichen Schriften des Neuen Bundes.) Burnett also, in his Exposition of the XXXIX Articles, speaks thus of this subjective criterion: This is only an argument to him that feels it, if it is one at all; and, therefore, it proves nothing to another person. No subjective criterion could ever be apt for such use, since it would depend on the subjective dispositions of individuals, and one and the same individual would, at different times, be differently affected by the same book. Moreover, this pious movement can come from other than inspired books. A man will feel more religious emotion from the reading of the Imitation of Christ than from the Book of Judges. But experience itself disproves this system. Honest men attest that they do not feel this pious movement, and the opinion may now be said to be obsolete.

The Calvinists particular inspiration of the Holy Ghost in the individuals soul is cognate to the Calvinistic theory of the invisible church, and they both fall together. Once establish a visible authoritative Magisterium, and such means of interpreting Holy Scripture becomes incompatible with it. It is evident that such a system of private inspiration can never be proven. There never can be any available data to establish such secret action. It must ever remain a gratuitous, groundless assumption. It is exactly opposite to the economy of God. When He would teach the world, He did it by means of divinely commissioned men, directly establishing that such mode of teaching truth would last always. This were absurd, were the evangelization of mankind to be effected by the sole direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost in the heart. To be sure, no man can be brought to Christ without that working of the Holy Ghost in his heart. Nemo potest venire ad me, nisi Pater traxerit eum. But the error of protestants is to believe that this energy of the Spirit in mans soul excludes the external authoritative Magisterium. The power of the Spirit and the Magisterium are two causes co-operating to produce one effect. All the texts of Scripture alleged by the protestants, in support of this system, simply prove that the Holy Ghost moves man to Christian belief and to Christian action; and the same power energizing in the Church vitalizes it, and renders it capable of its great mission to teach all mankind. We will leave the prosecution of this train of argument to the tract De Locis Theologicis, and content ourselves here with a few a posteriori arguments. In the first place, did the Holy Ghost exert such action, he would, doubtless, move to a unanimity of faith; but the exact contrary is in fact verified. The sect of Presbyterians are split on some of the basic truths of Christianity. Can the Spirit of truth inspire them with doctrines directly opposed? The recent Briggs controversy has shown the lack of any religious harmony in the Presbyterian church.

I will here excerpt from Milners End of Controversy a few examples of men who claimed this inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The instances are based upon incontrovertible historical data. Montanus and his sect first claimed this private inspiration; we may see what spirit led him on, since he and others of his sect hanged themselves. After the great Apostasy, commonly called the Reformation, had been inaugurated by Luther, there arose the sect of the Anabaptists, who professed that it had been commanded them by direct communication from God to kill all the wicked ones, and establish a kingdom of the just. Bockhold, a tailor of Leyden, was moved by the private inspiration of the Spirit to proclaim himself King of Sion. He married by the same impulse eleven wives, all of whom he put to death. He declared that God had given him Amsterdam, through whose streets his followers ran naked crying out; Woe to Babylon! Woe to the wicked! Hermann, the Anabaptist, was moved to proclaim himself the Messiah, and to order: Kill the priests; kill all the magistrates in the world! Repent; your redemption is at hand.

All these excesses were done upon the principle and under a full conviction of an individual inspiration. In England, Venner was inspired to rush from the meetinghouse in Coleman St., proclaiming that he would acknowledge no sovereign but King Jesus, and that he would not sheathe his sword, till he had made Babylon [which emblemized monarchy] a hissing and a curse, not only in England, but also in foreign countries; having assurance that one of them would put to flight a thousand, and two of them, ten thousand. On the scaffold, he protested that he was led by Jesus. The records of George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, furnish abundant evidence of the abominable absurdities into which this supposed inspiration led the Friends. One woman rushed naked into Whitehall Chapel, when Cromwell was there. Another came into the parliament house with a trencher, which she there broke in pieces, saying: Thus shall he be broken in pieces. Swedenborg declared that he had received, at an eating house in London, the commission from Christ: I am the Lord Jesus Christ, your Creator and Redeemer. I have chosen you to explain to men the interior and spiritual sense of the Scriptures. I will dictate to you what you are to write. Here, in the very position of the system, he contradicts himself; for, if Christ gave him a command to teach men, they must needs pay heed to him. Muhammad, and the founder of the foul sect of Mormons, claimed private inspiration. Guiteau claimed the moving of the Spirit in the slaying of President Garfield. Wherefore, we maintain that the system of private inspiration, which logically leads to such absurdities, is in itself absurd and untenable.

No man makes a better argument against the insufficiency of protestant criteria than Marcus Dods in his article which we have quoted. If any man will weigh this able presentation of the necessity which confronts a protestant with the vague answer which Dods renders he must be convinced that protestants are at sea without compass or star.

We have in series weighed these several criterions and found them wanting, we now turn to the CATHOLIC CRITERION.

This criterion is no other than the Catholic Church, into whose custody the Holy Writings have been given. The Church as an organized body has various elements and agencies, which functionate to teach man that truth which the Redeemer promised should be taught by her to the end of time. One of these agencies is tradition, which is simply the solemn witness and testimony of what the Church taught and believed from her inception. We can see at a glance that the fountain source of our criterion is God himself, who, as the First Cause, wrought this effect in the mind of the writer. God through his living Magisterium of truth tells us what is Holy Scripture, and what is not, and those who refuse to hear that authoritative voice have come to reject even the Scriptures themselves. Such rejection must logically follow from disbelief in the Church. Augustine was never truer than when he said: Were it not that the Authority of the Church moves me, I would not believe the Gospels. Rejecting the authority of the Church, the protestants have passed through a wondrous transition. Beginning by adoring even the Masoretic points, they have gradually lapsed to such a point where those who believe in the Bible as the infallible Word of God are the exceptions.

There remains then one means, and one means only, to teach man not only the truths of Scripture, but also the Scripture of truths. This means is the voice of God through the Church.

The mighty mind of St. Augustine clearly saw and proclaimed the necessity of the Church as the criterion of Scripture. Arguing with a Manichaean he declares: I ask: Who is this Manichaeus? Ye will answer: The Apostle of Jesus Christ; I believe it not; and now thou art not able to do or say anything. Thou didst promise me a knowledge of truth, and now thou obligest me to believe what I know not. Perhaps thou wilt read me the Gospel, and thence endeavor to establish the existence of Manichaeus. But if thou findest one who not yet believes the Gospel what wilt thou say to one who declares to thee: I do not believe? And I would not believe the Gospel were it not that the authority of the Catholic Church moved me.

In placing the Church as the supreme judge of the Canon we do not assert that the Church has power to make an inspired book. In the words of Melchior Canus: This is to be demonstrated that the Church of the faithful still on earth can not write a canonical book; but that it can define whether or not a disputed book be canonical, because the solution of doubts regarding matters of faith belongs to the present Church. For it is necessary that there should be a visible judge in the Church to decide controversies, for the reason that God fails not the Church in necessary things. And whether or not a book be canonical vitally concerns faith. Therefore to the Church on earth pertains this judgment.… I firmly believe therefore that the Church is inspired not to give truth and authority to the canonical books, but to teach that these and not others are canonical (De Locis Theol. 7, 8).

The Church must teach us two things; what books are of God; and what influence God had in such books. We shall treat first of Gods influence upon the Holy Books; and, secondly, of the official list of those books. As it is well to know the nature of the thing sought, before going in quest of it, so we believe that we shall be aided in constructing the list of books of Holy Scripture by a knowledge of the distinguishing element required in them, before admitting them to such list. Our treatise will deal first, therefore, with the NATURE AND EXTENT OF INSPIRATION, and secondly with THE CANON.

At this point we shall submit a document which, though not a dogmatic pronouncement, is still an authoritative directing voice from the Head of the Church. This document is the encyclical letter Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII. on the study of Holy Scriptures, which appeared on Nov. 18, 1893. The immediate occasion of the encyclical letter was a defense of Lenormant by dHulst entitled La Question Biblique which was published at Paris in 1893. We give the following translation of the papal document Providentissimus Deus:—The God of all Providence, Who in the adorable designs of His love at first elevated the human race to the participation of the Divine nature, and afterwards delivered it from universal guilt and ruin, restoring it to its primitive dignity, has, in consequence, bestowed upon man a splendid gift and safeguard—making known to him, by supernatural means, the hidden mysteries of His Divinity, His wisdom and His mercy. For although in Divine revelation there are contained some things which are not beyond the reach of unassisted reason, and which are made the objects of such revelation in order that all may come to know them with facility, certainty, and safety from error, yet not on this account can supernatural Revelation be said to be absolutely necessary; it is only necessary because God has ordained man to a supernatural end. [Conc. Vat. Sess. III. cap. ii. de revel.] This supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church is contained both in unwritten Tradition, and in written books, which are therefore, called sacred and canonical because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author, and as such have been delivered to the Church. [Ibid.] This belief has been perpetually held and professed by the Church in regard to the Books of both Testaments; and there are well-known documents of the gravest kind, coming down to us from the earliest times, which proclaim that God, Who spoke first by the Prophets, then by His own mouth, and lastly by the Apostles, composed also the Canonical Scriptures, [S. Aug. de civ. Dei. XI., 3.] and that these are His own oracles and words—[S. Clem. Rom. 1 ad. Cor. 45; S. Polycarp. ad Phil. 7; S. Iren c. haer. II., 28, 2]—a Letter written by our Heavenly Father and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race in its pilgrimage so far from its heavenly country. [S. Chrys. in Gen. hom. 2, 2; S. Aug. in Ps. XXX., serm., 2, 1; S. Greg. M. ad Theo. ep. IV., 31.] If, then, such and so great is the excellence and dignity of the Scriptures, that God Himself has composed them, and that they treat of Gods marvellous mysteries, counsels, and works, it follows that the branch of sacred Theology, which is concerned with the defence and elucidation of these Divine Books, must be excellent and useful in the highest degree.

Now We, who by the help of God, and not without fruit, have by frequent Letters and exhortation endeavored to promote other branches of study which seem capable of advancing the glory of God, and contributing to the salvation of souls, have for a long time cherished the desire to give an impulse to the noble science of Holy Scripture, and to impart to Scripture study a direction suitable to the needs of the present day. The solicitude of the Apostolic office naturally urges, and even compels us, not only to desire that this grand source of Catholic revelation should be made safely and abundantly accessible to the flock of Jesus Christ, but also not to suffer any attempt to defile or corrupt it, either on the part of those who impiously or openly assail the Scriptures, or of those who are led astray into fallacious and imprudent novelties. We are not ignorant, indeed, Venerable Brethren, that there are not a few Catholics, men of talent and learning, who do devote themselves with ardor to the defence of the Sacred Writings and to making them known and better understood. But whilst giving to these the commendation they deserve, We cannot but earnestly exhort others also, from whose skill and piety and learning we have a right to expect good results, to give themselves to the same most praiseworthy work. It is Our wish and fervent desire to see an increase in the number of the approved and persevering laborers in the cause of Holy Scripture; and more especially that those whom Divine Grace has called to Holy Orders, should, day by day, as their state demands, display greater diligence and industry in reading, meditating and explaining it.








Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com