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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Scripture dictation, mechanical or otherwise: Quotes

As a companion to the post yesterday, copied below are a few quotes from the past, regarding the subject of inspiration of the Scriptures and dictation.

Indeed, a couple of cautions are required: 1. Some of these excerpts, inspected closely in their contexts, might be interpreted differently by various readers. 2. Many old quotes appeared first in some other language, and have been translated. A quote with some context will probably give the sense well. A quote merely using the word dictation might need to be viewed with much more scrutiny.

Justin Martyr (circa AD 100 – circa AD 165)
“For neither by nature nor by human conception is it possible for men to know things so great and divine, but by the gift which then descended from above upon the holy men, who had no need of rhetorical art, nor of uttering anything in a contentious or quarrelsome manner, but to present themselves pure to the energy of the Divine Spirit, in order that the divine plectrum itself, descending from heaven, and using righteous men as an instrument like a harp or lyre, might reveal to us the knowledge of things divine and heavenly. Wherefore, as if with one mouth and one tongue, they have in succession, and in harmony with one another, taught us both concerning God, and the creation of the world, and the formation of man, and concerning the immortality of the human soul, and the judgment which is to be after this life, and concerning all things which it is needful for us to know, and thus in divers times and places have afforded us the divine instruction.” Hortatory Address to the Greeks (Roberts-Donaldson Translation, Chapter 8)
Augustine of Hippo (AD 354 – 430)
“Therefore, when those disciples have written matters which He declared and spake to them, it ought not by any means to be said that He has written nothing Himself; since the truth is, that His members have accomplished only what they became acquainted with by the repeated statements of the Head. For all that He was minded to give for our perusal on the subject of His own doings and sayings, He commanded to be written by those disciples, whom He thus used as if they were His own hands.” Augustine’s De Consensu Evangelistarum Libri Quatuor (Harmony of the Gospels, S. D. F. Salmond translation) In Systematic Theology, Norman Geisler gives this translation: “When they write what he has taught and said, it should not be asserted that He did not write it; since the members only put down what they had come to know at the dictation of the Head. Therefore, whatever He wanted us to read concerning His words and deeds, He commanded His disciples, His hands to write. Hence one cannot but receive what he reads in the Gospels, though written by the disciples, as though it were written by the very hand of the Lord himself.”

John Calvin (1509 – 1564)

The Spirit of God, who had appointed the Evangelists to be his clerks, appears purposely to have regulated their style in such a manner, that they all wrote one and the same history, with the most perfect agreement, but in different ways. It was intended, that the truth of God should more clearly and strikingly appear, when it was manifest that his witnesses did not speak by a preconcerted plan, but that each of them separately, without paying any attention to another, wrote freely and honestly what the Holy Spirit dictated.

An editor points out that the word translated clerks is the French word “‘greffiers.’—Clerks, not Authors in the ordinary meaning of that term, but persons who wrote to the dictation of another.” Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke - Volume 1, by John Calvin
Gisbert Voetius (1589 – 1676)
“It must be held that the Holy Spirit dictated in unmediated and extraordinary fashion, everything which was, and was to be, written. Both things and words, matters which the authors previously did not know or could not remember, as well as things which they did truly know, both historical and particular details, and universal dogmas both theoretical and practical, they learned these things, whether by sight, by hearing, by reading, or by meditation.” As cited by Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I/2, London: T & T Clark, 1936
Johannes Andreas Quenstedt (1617 – 1688)
“The Holy Spirit not only inspired in the prophets and apostles the content and the sense contained in Scripture, or the meaning of the words, so that they might of their own pleasure clothe and furnish these thoughts with their own style and their own words; but the Holy Spirit actually supplied, inspired, and dictated the very words and each and every term individually.” Johannes Andreas Quenstedt, Theologia didactico-polemica, as cited by Horst Dietrich Preuss, Old Testament Theology, Volume I, Westminster John Knox Press, p. 281
Benjamin Keach (1640 – 1704)
If the Scriptures were not what they pretend to be, viz., the Word of God, and dictated to the writers thereof of his Holy Spirit, it would be the greatest affront to the Divine Majesty, and the grossest cheat towards mankind, that ever was put upon the world. Tropologia: a Key to Open Scripture Metaphors, Benjamin Keach, p. 207 (First published in 1681), p. xiii

...they affirming that God himself inspired them to write it, and that it was no product of their own, but every part of it the genuine dictate of the Holy Ghost. Tropologia, p. xviii

...God is the real Author of the scripture, and immediately both spoke and wrote it by the prophets, who were his ministers and amanuensis... Tropologia, p. 207

The following quote is attributed to Keach in “The Role of Metaphor in the Sermons of Benjamin Keach” (James Christopher Holmes, 2009, p. 89), and “Public Worship and Practical Theology in the Work of Benjamin Keach,” (James Barry Vaughn, 1989, p. 115), but I have not found the original source (which they cite differently). “The Mysteries which God proposes to be believed in his holy word, as they are in themselves most true and best, although all humane Reason, which Judges by its own wisdom or carnal conclusions, should otherwise determine. So their Eloquence (an inseparable companion of Divine Wisdom) is to be esteemed the best and most elegant by the faithful, unless we suppose that God who immediately dictated them to his Amanuensis, spoke nonsense, and is inferior to his Creatures in that qualification, which is down right Blasphemy, and an assertion that deserves not only derision, but the severest castigation.”
Robert Haldane (1764–1842)
Nor does the difference of style which we find among these writers at all conclude against their having the words they were to write imparted to them. The style that God was pleased to employ was used, and to the instruments he chose that style was natural, and flowed like the words with their full consent, and according to the particular tone of their minds, while they yielded to the impression as voluntary and intelligent agents. The Holy Spirit could dictate to them his own words in such a way, that they would also be their words, uttered with the understanding. He could speak the same thought by the mouth of a thousand persons, each in his own style. Is it, then, because we cannot comprehend the mode of such an operation, that we should dare to deny the obvious import of Scripture declarations? Because one peculiar cast of style distinguishes every man’s writings, is it thought impossible that the Spirit of God can employ a variety of styles, or is it supposed that he must be confined to one particular style? The simple statement of such an idea contains its refutation. It is evident, too, that variety of style militates no more against the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, than against the idea of the writers being superintended, elevated, or controlled; for if the Holy Spirit sanctioned variety, it was equally consistent to dictate variety. And it might be shown that such variety is of essential importance in the Gospel narratives, in bringing out very interesting views, that could not be so well exhibited in a single narrative.

Scottish Baptist theologian Robert Haldane in The Evidence and Authority of Divine Revelation: being a View of the Testimony of the Law and the Prophets to the Messiah, with the Subsequent Testimonies (Vol. I, 3rd edition, London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1839, pp. 213-216)​
Fran├žois Louis Gaussen (1790 –1863)
“Yes (and we gladly, in this point, concur with objectors), in one place we have the phraseology, accent, and voice of a Moses, in another, of a St. John; here of an Isaiah, there of an Amos; here of a Daniel, and here of a Peter, Nehemiah, or Paul. We recognise, we hear, we see them; it is impossible to be mistaken. This fact we admit, we delight to contemplate it, we admire it greatly; and we see in it (as we shall have occasion to reiterate) a proof of the divine wisdom which has indited the Scriptures.” pp. 47-48
“If then God himself declares to us his having dictated the entire Scriptures, who will venture to say that this fifth verse of the 11th chapter of St. John is less from God than is the sublime language in which that Gospel begins, and which describes to us the Eternal Word?” p. 54
“Well! such is the Bible. It is not, as you venture to say, a book which God has charged men, previously enlightened, to write under his superintendence: it is a book which God has dictated to them; it is the word of God; the Spirit of the Lord spake to its authors, and his words have proceeded from them…
“9. That the style of Moses, Ezekiel, David, St. Luke, and St. John, may, at the same time, also be the style of God, is what a child could tell us.” p. 57
Louis Gaussen in Theopneustia: the Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (1841, pages cited). Perhaps Gaussen falls between the views of dictation and more free speech of the human writers. On the other hand, perhaps the 20th and 21st centuries brought new concerns that were not overly bothersome to past generations.

John R. Rice (1895 – 1980)

Face it honestly, if God gave the very words and men wrote them down, that is dictation. It was not mechanical dictation. It ought not to be hard for us to understand that God, who could give the very words by a miracle, could also express the feelings and character and personality of the men whom he had formed and through whom He gave the words.

Baptist preacher and editor John Richard Rice, in Our God-Breathed Book: The Bible, pp. 287-288.

These quotes indicate the idea of dictation of the Scriptures by God to his writers of the Scriptures, is neither a new nor obscure idea. In my opinion, we have been frightened off by the threat of our appearing “unscholarly.”

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