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Friday, April 14, 2017

Preservation: Historical considerations, Christian individuals

John Calvin, from 1536:
“some remarks on the authority of Scripture...But since we are not favoured with daily oracles from heaven, and since it is only in the Scriptures that the Lord hath been pleased to preserve his truth in perpetual remembrance; it obtains the same complete credit and authority with believers, when they are satisfied of its divine origin, as if they heard the very words pronounced by God himself.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by John Allen, New Haven, CT: Howe and Nicklin, 1816, Book I, Ch. VII, p. 80)  “For it is not an unimportant consideration, that from the publication of the Scripture, so many generations of men should have agreed in voluntarily obeying it; and that however Satan, together with the whole world, has endeavoured by strange methods to suppress or destroy it, or utterly to erase and obliterate it from the memory of man; yet it has always, like a palm-tree, risen superior to all opposition, and remained invincible.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by John Allen, Book I, Ch. VIII, p. 97). Calvin ascribes the preserving of Scripture throughout the ages, not to the church or the faithfulness of men, but to the providence of God. This comforting, historical fact is further proof that the Bible is a Divine Book. “But since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only records in which God has been pleased to consign his truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognised, unless they are believed to have come from heaven, as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989 [trans. 1845], Book I, Ch. VII, p. 68) “For it is not to be accounted of no consequence, that, from the first publication of Scripture, so many ages have uniformly concurred in yielding obedience to it, and that, notwithstanding of the many extraordinary attempts which Satan and the whole world have made to oppress and overthrow it, or completely efface it from the memory of men, it has flourished like the palm tree and continued invincible.” (The Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge, Book I, Ch. VIII, p. 82)

John Owen, from 1659:
“It is the ή γραφὴ that is θεόπνευστος (2 Tim 3:16), ‘the writing, or word written, is by inspiration from God.’ Not only the doctrine in it, but the γραφὴ itself, or the ‘doctrine as written,’ is so from him. Hence, the providence of God hath manifested itself no less concerned in the preservation of the writings than of the doctrine contained in them; the writing itself being the product of his own eternal counsel for the preservation of the doctrine.”
“Hence, the providence of God hath manifested itself no less concerned in the preservation of the writings than of the doctrine contained in them; the writing itself being the product of his own eternal counsel for the preservation of the doctrine, after a sufficient discovery of the insufficiency of all other means for that end and purpose. And hence the malice of Satan hath raged no less against the book than against the truth contained in it...because that the Scripture being brought unto us by the good providence of God, in ways of his appointment and preservation, it doth evidence itself infallibly unto our consciences to be the word of the living God.” – “The Divine Original of the Scriptures,” pp. 387, 416
“First, then, it is granted that the individual αυτογραφα of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles, are in all probability, and as to all that we know, utterly perished and lost out of the world; as also the copies of Ezra. The reports mentioned by some to the contrary are open fictions. The individual ink and parchment, the rolls or books that they wrote, could not without a miracle have been preserved from moldering into dust before this time. Nor doth it seem improbable that God was willing by their loss to reduce us to a nearer consideration of his care and providence in the preservation of every tittle contained in them.”
“For the first transcribers of the original copies, and those who in succeeding ages have done the like work from them, whereby they have been propagated and continued down to us, in a subserviency to the providence and promise of God, we say not, as is vainly charged by Morinus and Cappollus, that they were all or any of them ἀναμάρτητοι, and ζεόπνευστοι, “infallible and divinely inspired,” so that it was impossible for them in any thing to mistake.” – “The Integrity and Purity of the Hebrew and Greek Text of the Scriptures”, p. 454

Matthew Henry, by 1706:
[Commenting on Isaiah 30:8] “...in a book, to be preserved for posterity, in perpetuam rei memoriam—for a standing testimony against this wicked generation; let it remain not only to the next succeeding ages, but for ever and ever, while the world stands; and so it shall, for the book of the scriptures no doubt, shall continue, and be read, to the end of time.”

John Gill, by 1763:
[John Gill’s comments on Psalm 12:6-7 indicate not that he does not think this text teaches preservation – but show that he believes in preservation of the Bible.] “Thou shall keep them, O Lord,.... Not the words before mentioned, as Aben Ezra explains it, for the affix is masculine and not feminine; not but God has wonderfully kept and preserved the sacred writings; and he keeps every word of promise which he has made; and the doctrines of the Gospel will always continue from one generation to another; but the sense is, that God will keep the poor and needy, and such as he sets in safety, as Kimchi rightly observes: they are not their own keepers, but God is the keeper of them; he keeps them by his power, and in his Son, in whose hands they are, and who is able to keep them from falling; they are kept by him from a total and final falling away; from the dominion and damning power of sin, and from being devoured by Satan, and from the evil of the world: and this the psalmist had good reason to believe, because of the love of God to them, his covenant with them, and the promises of safety and salvation he has made unto them;”

John William Burgon, from 1896:
“There exists no reason for supposing that the Divine Agent, who in the first instance thus gave to mankind the Scriptures of Truth, straightway abdicated His office; took no further care of His work; abandoned those precious writings to their fate.” (The Traditional Text of the Holy Gospels Vindicated and Established, edited by Edward Miller, London: George Bell and Sons, 1896, p.12)

Lewis Sperry Chafer, from 1947:
“There is practically no difference in the essential reality of the spoken Word and the written Word, for one is no other than a form in which the other appears. Both are like the breath of His mouth.” (Systematic Theology, Volume 1, Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947, p. 121)

Only a few folks are cited, strategically. The older commentators lived before the “Bible version debate wars” existed. John Calvin wrote his Institutes, I believe, originally in Latin, and later translated them into French. He certainly didn’t write in English! Owen speaks of the promise of preservation and God’s providence in the matter, while not ascribing inspiration to copyists and translators. Gill and Henry, based on their commentaries, were not “King James-Only” advocates. Neither was Burgon, though he was an opponent of the Revised Version of 1881-1185, and a champion of the Majority Text. The Chafer quote was merely something I happened across – not preservation specific – and is included because Chafer was the founder and first president of Dan Wallace’s seminary. Those who bother to look will likely find he was a proponent of a doctrine of preservation of the Scriptures.

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