Saturday, October 16, 2010
On the Inspiration of Holy Scripture
Inspiration means ‘God-breathed,’ in-spiritus, in-Spirited, Spirit-filled.
‘The Holy Scriptures are able to make thee (empower into wisdom) wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration (Theopneustos = God-spirited, God-breathed) of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’ II Timothy 3.15-16 ‘Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost'. II Peter 1.20-21 ‘I believe the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation in Jesus Christ.’'Are your persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ?' (Ordination of Priests in the Anglican Ordinal). Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation (Article of Religion VI). We Anglican Catholics believe in the full, or plenary, inspiration of Scripture: every word and syllable in Scripture is inspired by God and meant to teach the Church. Interpretation of the Church’s Book is properly done by the whole Catholic Church in all ages, East and West, universally, anciently, consentiently, which reads Scripture according to her own mind. The Undivided Church is the living Voice which gives articulation to the meaning of the Scriptures, through the Creeds and the Holy Tradition. The Church guarantees the authenticity and inspiration of the Canon of Scripture, and for this reason, how particular books may teach or who wrote them are of secondary importance. Canon is canon because the Church is herself guided and inspired so to teach, relegating questions of personal authorship or history to the background. The inspired Biblical Canon rests on the authority of inspired Spirit-possessed Body of Christ, the Church. We are not bound to any particular theory of how Scripture is inspired, as long as we affirm with the Church that the Canonical Old and New Testaments are the Word of God and have been inspired in their totality by the Spirit of God. Various theories exists as to how Scripture is inspired: 1. Verbal inspiration - God immediately and directly caused the writers to set their texts to paper, being thus oracles, secretaries of the Holy Ghost. This view was held by most of the early Church Fathers. This process is a totally supernatural explanation. 2. Natural inspiration - God worked within the naturally occurring histories of his people, permitting men of particular interests, talent and ability to write what would later be reckoned Holy Scripture. This view may be called ‘historical emergence.’ 3. Mixed bag - a) God, in some cases, directly inspired by providing infused knowledge or a direct supernatural vision, and in other instances, God inspired through man's natural talents and abilities. b) God used pre-existing materials, inspiring their collection and edition into biblical books. c) God directed the general course of human history to lend towards a particular creation of Scripture. In the end, inspiration is a mystery, and various theories are permitted, so long as one affirms genuine inspiration of Scripture by God. God chose certain men and made use of their own faculties and powers to write Scripture. They really wrote the Bible; they were not ‘puppets.’ They wrote exactly what God wanted, as he wanted it. The Bible teaches, therefore, without error, the truth of God we need to possess for our salvation. God is the divine author of Scripture because He inspired the human authors; he acts in, with and through them. He guarantees in His Church that their writings are free from error, communicating His divine truth rightly. Hence we 'rightly divide the Word of Truth' (II Timothy 2.15). The Bible is not a collection of human authorship, it is not the word of man, it does not combine truth and error, but is the very Word of God written. ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God’ (I Thessalonians 2.13). God condescends and speaks to mankind in human words; the Creator accommodates Himself to mankind for our salvation, supremely in the Incarnation of the Word of God, God the Son, the Logos-Word of the Father, Who empties Himself and takes on the form of Man to communicate His Divine Life to us - the principle of the Incarnation was at work in the formation and revelation of Holy Scripture - ‘God was made man so man can be made God’ (Saint Athanasius). God conveys Himself to man through human word and speech. The One Word of God, the Divine Logos, is the one Word uttered throughout Holy Scripture. God expresses Himself completely and perfectly through His Divine Word, the Person of the Son (Saint John 1.1-14). For this reason, the Church venerates the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, honouring the actual physical text of the Bible with incense and kisses, honouring the Person of Our Lord present in the Bible, as He is present even more intensely and objectively in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. ‘One and the same Word extends throughout Scripture, the One and same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, for He was in the beginning "God of God."’(Saint Augustine of Hippo, On the Psalms). ‘All Sacred Scripture is one book, and that one Book is Christ, because all Divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and is fulfilled in Christ’ (Hugh of Saint Victor). ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ’ (Saint Jerome). There is four-fold way of interpreting Scripture, a four-fold method, or as the Holy Fathers call them, the Four Senses of Scripture: Scripture possesses both a literal and a spiritual, figurative, symbolic, iconic meaning. Because Scripture is living and active, it is capable of holding all four senses. Sometimes, in any given case, only one or two are applicable, sometimes all are at work. Indeed, because of the multiplicity of various genres and styles of literature in the Bible, only one sense may be useful and helpful and even operative in any given example. 1. Literal and Historical: ‘All senses of Scripture are based on the literal’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas). According to Saint Thomas, the Church must never establish a doctrine solely on an allegorical reading, but it must be based in the literal meaning of the Bible. One must have the basic literal meaning before the others emerge. Meaning is conveyed by the Scripture itself and discovered by exegesis (reading-out) of the meaning. For example, Jerusalem = a city of Israel. 2. Allegorical: Realities and events discussed in Scripture are themselves signs of God’s presence and will. Allegory is the Scripture's significance in Christ. For example, Jerusalem = the Catholic Church. 3. Tropological and Moral: the Scriptures are written for our instruction and learning, and our moral teaching. For example, Jerusalem = God’s holy people, God’s pure chosen flock. 4. Anagogical and Eschatological: (anagoge, leading, uncovering). Events and realities of the Bible are viewed in their eternal significance, their symbolic meaning as pointing to the end of the world and eternity. For example, Jerusalem = the heavenly kingdom. The medieval couplet sums-up the four senses of Scripture: The Letter speaks of deeds; Allegory to faith; The Moral how to act; Anagogy our destiny. Lettera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria, moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia. Jesus Christ is the lens of Scripture, through whose Incarnation and Paschal Mystery we orthodox catholics read the whole of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. Scripture is inerrant, without error, infallible, never teaching falsehood, because as the Word of God it communicates God’s saving truth of Faith and Morality, and faithfully transmits the intention of God in teaching faith and morals to us. Although specific texts may differ in the purposes of their inspiration, their inerrancy is guaranteed for whatever purpose, by God Himself. To discover the meaning of particular texts, one must look to the teaching office of the Church, Holy Tradition, the unbroken Apostolic teaching of the Church. The purpose for inspiration itself will go unfulfilled if one does not look to the Body which has been inspired by the Holy Ghost to give the right interpretation of her own Book. We must read Scripture within the Living Tradition of the whole Catholic Church. The Holy Fathers teach that the Bible is written in Church’s heart, in her interior life, rather than on paper or in documents. Inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit, the Church carries in her Tradition the whole teaching contained in Scripture. ‘The Word of God is not just a mute, written word, but is Incarnate and Living in the Church’ (S. Bernard of Clairvaux). There is but One Catholic Faith, One Deposit of Divine Revelation, but Two Modes of its transmission, Holy Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. The Catholic Church, especially represented by the Apostolic College, the historic Episcopate, is the guardian, transmitter teacher and interpreter of Holy Scripture. In order to retain their proper meaning, the Holy Scriptures cannot divorced from the context in which they were inspired, to wit, the doctrine, liturgy and discipline of that Church which bears the marks One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic. 'Biblical orthodoxy' cannot be realised without or separated from ecclesiastical Tradition. The Church of the living God is the 'pillar and ground of the Truth,'the House of God(I Timothy 3.15). ‘Where there is the Church, there is the Spirit and where the Spirit is, there is the Church. The Church is the place where the Spirit flourishes' (Saint Irenaeus of Lyons). 'But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me' (Saint Augustine).
Posted by Misyon Anglicano ng Philippinas (MAP) at 6:21 AM