The question of biblical authority is a burning one, so much so that to some theologians and preachers it is too hot to handle. Some writers, reportedly of high intellectual and spiritual standing, look upon the Bible as a book which, to them, is obviously marked by inconsistency, historical inaccuracy and self-contradiction. They see the Bible as containing but not as being the Word of God. While they are telling us that the Bible contains errors, incorrect dates and fictitious authorships, they claim that in this Book one may find the Word of God. These men say they are our brethren in Christ, and some of them might be, but I find it very hard to identify myself with such teachers and teaching.
While this book is being written wholly from a preacher's point of view, it is set forth in non-academic, non-professional, and non-technical terms. It is addressed to both pulpit and pew. I am fully persuaded that every Christian should study the Bible with the view to gaining true knowledge about God. He must read and study diligently this Grand Old Book. This is not optional but obligatory. We need this incomparable and indispensable Book for a right understanding of the origin of the universe and man, the great redemptive work of God culminating in the Advent, Atonement, Ascension, and Second Advent of His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We need the Bible to teach us how to live right and to prepare for death and eternity. We need this Book to tell us of future events, how this age will end, the final overthrow of evil and destructive powers, and the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is our one standard text-book, our safe and sane rule of faith and practice, our final court of appeal. True, the goal of understanding is not easily reached, nor will we know it perfectly in this life, but we must obey the command which, though addressed first to Timothy, applies to every Christian: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15). We must study this Book of all books because Christianity is again at the crossroads, and we Christians are compelled to choose the road upon which we will travel. It will not be an easy matter for some to make the right choice. The road map, the signposts and the guide books have been tampered with to intentionally lead us astray. But if the earnest seeker for truth will give himself to a careful reading and study of the Bible, he will not travel the wrong road nor come to the wrong destination.
What is the Bible? Let the minister, and all men, settle this question once and for all time. Do not presume to know what the Bible is until you have exercised yourself diligently to discover exactly what it is. Beware of your own prejudices, misconceptions and ignorance. Too long the Bible has been misrepresented. Millions of young people have been brainwashed by infidels and atheists who have never taken the time to attempt to understand the Bible. It is criticized and condemned by those who know the least about it. A professor in a state university apologized to his students for the Bible, as he said, "We all admit there are scientific errors in the Bible. However, we can excuse these errors on the ground that the Bible was not intended to be, nor is it, a textbook on science, so let us not look for scientific accuracy in such a book." I react strongly against the blasphemous statement that "there are scientific errors in the Bible." If the Bible is not scientifically accurate, then it cannot be, to me at least, the Word of God.
The most serious and intense struggle in which the Christian Church has ever engaged is the war over the Word of God. If this war could be lost, our faith and hope in God would be destroyed and every witness for Christ would likewise be destroyed. The Apostle Paul warned of the coming war against the Word of God. Here is his statement to the elders in the assembly at Ephesus: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:28-30). And in his final written message before his death, he added, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. . . Evil men and seducers (or imposters) shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:1, 13).
Paul's prophecy of the coming conflict came to pass, and the struggle becomes more intense and more serious with every passing day. While the imposters and deceivers multiply, the exhortation stands which says, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration 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 3:14-17).
The late James Orr, a distinguished Bible scholar, reportedly predicted at the turn of the century that the theological battle of the twenty-first century will be fought around the fortress of the worth and authority of Holy Scripture. We are in the thick of that battle today. Is the Bible the Word of God or is it the work of man? For myself I cannot see how the Bible can possibly be the product of man's efforts. If the Bible is confined to human thought, then why is there only one such book? Whatever man has produced in the past he has reproduced with improvements. Many attempts have been made to paraphrase and revise the Bible, but no man has ever attempted to write a Bible of his own.
The questions which relate to life here and hereafter can be answered with satisfaction only after we have proved to ourselves whether or not the Bible is a true revelation from God. There are leaders in various branches of religion who admit to Divine revelation in nature and through reason, but who deny a supernatural revelation in writing. The natural theology of the deist may be good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. God has revealed Himself in nature, to be sure, but such a limited revelation has in it no solution to the problem of evil. Christian belief cannot be satisfied with a limited revelation of God derived from the light of nature and the processes of human reasoning. Man needs the Bible!
There are teachers among us who seem too willing to surrender the time-honored Biblical meaning of inspiration. Their new attitude toward the Bible grew out of their demand for a new doctrine of inspiration. Neo-orthodoxy would have all Christians abandon the Scriptural teaching about inspiration and accept its new theology. But if we do this we will then be judging the Bible on the basis of what certain "scientists" and "scholars" have said concerning it. This I am not ready to do, and I am quite aware that my position is not a popular one among some religious leaders of our day.
Now where should one begin in his quest for the meaning of inspiration? I do not hesitate in insisting that the first place where one must go to learn the meaning of the inspiration of the Bible is to the Bible itself. We cannot accept merely what is acceptable to modern man. Our generation has witnessed the growing exaltation of man and his intellectual powers to the degree that some men are looked upon as knowing more than God. Let us come back to the Bible and accept the concept of inspiration which is based solely upon the teaching of the Bible. When the Biblical meaning of inspiration is accepted, there can be no mistaken identity.
Someone might raise the objection that it is "circular" to appeal to the Bible for its own authentication and vindication, meaning that to appeal to Scripture in support of Scripture is to argue in a circle. Any court will recognize that a man has a right to testify in his own behalf. Now we know that it is possible for every man to lie, or to deceive, or to be prejudiced. But because the Bible is the Word of God, and God, because of Who He is, cannot lie (Titus 1:2), most certainly the Bible's witness to its inspiration ought, therefore, to be accepted as trustworthy.
One of the great doctrinal passages in the Bible is the well-known word from Paul to Timothy. The King James Version reads as follows: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (11 Timothy 3:16). Take notice of that word "inspiration." I believe there are only two appearances of this word in the English Bible, one in the Old Testament (Job 32:8) and one in the New. The passage which for our purpose is of supreme importance is the one in the New Testament.
The five words, "given by inspiration of God," are the translation of the one Greek word theopneustos. It is a compound, consisting of theo (God) and pneustor (breathed). The true meaning is "that which is breathed out by God." It is a strange figure, but a strong one. Used only here in the entire New Testament, it is designed to make the reader aware of the fact that all Scripture, every writing to which the name Scripture could be given, was actually breathed out by God, and consequently bears the stamp of Divine origin and authority. When man speaks, his words might be said to be man-breathed; when God spoke, His words were God-breathed. It can be said metaphorically that the Scriptures are God's breath. How much of the Scriptures have gone out of the mouth of God? All Scripture! The Scriptures came into being because they were breathed out by God Himself. Modern theories of inspiration would have us give the larger role to man and the lesser to God, as though God is not necessary to inspiration. But be certain that the Scriptures are the product of the Divine breath because they have their origin in God. And since the inspiration of the Bible is the focal point of conflict, we assert with firmness and finality that this greatest Book of all books owes its very existence to the direct creative work of God Himself.
The Lord Jesus said, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4, cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). He is merely stating that God had spoken, and that the words came from His mouth, they had been breathed out by God. On another occasion He said to the Jews, ". . . the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). The precise point of our Lord's statement here is that the Scripture cannot be fragmentized, the Scripture as a whole cannot be annulled or set aside. He was attributing to all the Scriptures an authoritative character. His was an appeal to the unity and totality of Scripture, namely, all of Scripture must be inspired or none of it can be. The Bible claims for itself total inspiration. All Scripture is the product of the breathing of God Who is the first and final cause of Scripture and of all things. "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (Psalm 33:6). "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job 33:4). This graphic figure of speech tells us that God employed the same movement in the creation of the universe, man and the Scriptures, namely, the activity of His Spirit or Breath. When the three American astronauts were circling the moon, the first humans ever to do so, they alternated reading aloud the divinely inspired record of creation as found in Genesis, chapter one. In so doing they were paying the same reverence and respect to the Scriptures that they attributed to God and His vast creation. And rightly so, because both the universe and the Scriptures proceeded from Him.
How high a view of inspiration can we hold? Is the inspiration of the Bible plenary, that is, is it totally, fully inspired? Is it verbally inspired, or merely thought inspired? We believe that the inspiration of the Bible extends to the very words because the Bible itself teaches this. The neo-orthodox position, in its quest for a new approach to the doctrine of inspiration, rejects the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Bible. When one reads what some modern "scholars" have written on the subject he sees in some instances a mind that is hostile toward the idea of verbal inspiration. Some opponents of verbal inspiration go so far as to misrepresent us by falsely claiming that verbal inspiration is synonymous with mechanical dictation. We will leave the mode of inspiration for later discussion. The late Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas wrote, "In Scripture we do not have mechanical dictation, but inspiration; and whether we call it verbal or plenary, the phrase is not intended to say how God does it, but how far it has gone."
The magnitude of inspiration reaches the words of Scripture as well as the thoughts. How can we know God's thoughts if we do not have God's words? It is illogical reasoning for a person to expect to find inspiration in one's thoughts without the words of the person who thinks those thoughts. Surely inspiration cannot mean a collection of uninspired words supposed to convey inspired thoughts. For myself, I am forced to the conclusion that it would be just as impossible to divorce the thoughts of the Bible from its words as it would be to divorce my thoughts from my words. Why would any professing Christian consider it an incredible thing that God should speak in words? The Bible itself claims to be the Word of God, and must therefore be written in the words of God. I am not suggesting that there is no disclosure from God apart from the Bible. It is not necessary to use words to impart revelation. We know that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard" (Psalm 19: 1-3 ). But this first or primary disclosure of God in His works falls far short of the knowledge we receive through the fuller revelation in His words. The former discloses His power, while the latter reaches beyond to the revelation of His purpose and future plans. The Bible is not merely a work of God, it is the record of His words.
The writers whom God raised up recorded His words, not their own. When we say that God revealed His word to the prophets, we are saying that He revealed His words to them. Since the Bible is God's word, it consists of God's words. In this way the writers were inspired of God, for He said, "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him" (Deuteronomy 18:18). Moses said, "And God spake all these words" (Exodus 20:1), and "These are the words which the LORD hath commanded" (Exodus 35:1). David said, "The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and His word (not his thought) was in my tongue" (II Samuel 23:2). When God called Jeremiah, He assured His servant, "Behold, I have put my words (not thoughts) in thy mouth" (Jeremiah 1: 9). Perish the thought that the sovereign, almighty God, Who created the universe and man, was indifferent about the details of His written revelation! David prayed, ". . . Thou hast magnified Thy word above Thy name" (Psalm 138:2).
In 1940 the editor of The Challenger magazine asked this writer to send him a statement of his belief about inspiration. As a young pastor in my first church, I prepared and submitted the following, quoted here only in part: "Inspiration extends to the very words of Scripture, so that by inspiration is meant verbal inspiration. By this I am not suggesting that God dictated every word, but rather that He guided the writers in the choice of their words. The Bible is fully inspired, in all parts and respects. I believe in the plenary inspiration of every word of the original text of Holy Scripture. The writers were infallibly guided by God in their choice of subject matter and the words used to record their subjects. Words are necessary to express thoughts, therefore inspiration includes words as well as thoughts and concepts. Such guidance of the Holy Spirit over the human penmen does not extend to other writings, but rather excludes all other writings as uninspired. Of the Bible it must be said that 'all' is thus inspired (II Timothy 3:16), including 'the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets' (II Peter 3:2), the letters (Galatians 3:16 - notice the absence of the letter's'), the 'jot' (the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet) and the 'tittle' (the small ornamental mark in that alphabet distinguishing one letter from another) (Matthew 5:18). The Bible is the only God-given, authoritative revelation which gives to man an infallible rule of faith and practice." And now thirty-two years later (1972), 1 am prepared to say that my convictions about inspiration, as expressed above, are stronger than when they were first written.
At this point it is necessary to make the distinction between inspiration and revelation. Inspiration is that activity of God whereby He imparted certain information to certain men of His own choosing for the express purpose of committing that information to writing. He superintended each writer of the Scriptures in order that those Scriptures would possess Divine authority and be free from error. Revelation, while closely related to inspiration, is essentially the communication of that information and has to do more with the mode or method of presenting and preserving the imparted knowledge. Revelation is the act or process of imparting knowledge; inspiration guarantees its veracity.
Most appropriate for our purpose is an examination of II Peter 1:20, 21: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the 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). These words make it clear that the Scriptures are not the result of any man's personal and private investigation. Peter is stating here that the knowledge contained in the Scriptures is not to be found in man. The Scriptures are not the product of human search and reason, not of human origin. This is how the Bible did not come to us, and on this point there can be no misunderstanding. The teaching in these verses is both negative and positive.
Negatively, the Scriptures do not owe their origin to human initiative, investigation or imagination. How wonderfully the Holy Spirit anticipated the scoffers and critics in their claims that men concocted the Bible! He first disposes of such a notion. Never, at any time, did any part of Scripture come through the will of man.
Positively, human instrumentality is fully recognized, for "holy (set-apart) men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." First, observe the kind of men God selected for the task of writing the Scriptures. They were "holy men," meaning men set apart by God Himself. The human penmen did not choose writing as a career. As a matter of fact, Peter, who penned the passage we are presently considering, was an unlettered fisherman. Yet, for reasons known only to Himself, God set apart Peter to pen two Epistles. Jeremiah was a writing prophet, and God said to him, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah was a holy (set-apart) man, selected by God to receive the inspired word from God. Paul testified, ". . . It pleased God, who separated me (set me apart) from my mother's womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me. . . " (Galatians 1:15, 16). For this reason the Apostle could say, concerning the gospel he preached, "For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:12). All of the writers of Scripture were men set-apart by God to be the media of inspiration, the human penmen to whom God could reveal His thoughts.
Upon a closer examination of Peter's words, we learn how God controlled their minds as they received and wrote the message. They are said to have been "moved by the Holy Ghost," meaning that they were controlled and carried along by the Spirit. Without this special work of the Holy Spirit, the revelation from God could never be known by the natural man. When Moses wrote, for example, of the creation of the heavens and the earth, what he wrote would have to be an inspired writing. He was not present at the time of creation, nor was any other man. No human eye saw it and no human mind could have conceived it. The case of Moses and his account of creation illustrates the idea of revelation, the fact that God set apart a man to reveal a truth that only God knew. Inspiration has to do with the keeping of the writings from error and mistakes in the process of transmission.
Human writers were the media of inspiration, penning not their thoughts and words, but the utterances of God as they were lifted up and carried along by the Holy Spirit. The writers were not mere passive automata whose own gifts and abilities lay dormant. Man, unaided by God, could not have written the Bible, yet God did call certain men and control them by His Spirit to do His writing. There is definitely the human side of the Scriptures, but the Scriptures themselves are from God. Paul knew this great fact when he wrote, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:13). Paul could not take credit for the "words" which he spoke because he knew that the Holy Spirit gave them to him.
The Divine-human combination in the matter of inspiration may be illustrated from a statement made by our Lord. We must look at it in the parallel passages as recorded by Mark and Luke:
“For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, the LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool”
“And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, the LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool”
Look carefully at these two verses, and what do you see? In Luke's account the quotation is attributed to David, but Mark's account includes the fact that David spoke "by the Holy Ghost." Both are correct. The words that David spoke were God's words because they originated with God and He alone is their Author. On the other hand, God spoke them by the mouth of His servant David. When Peter and John quoted the Second Psalm in their prayer, they said to God, "Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said. . . " (Acts 4:25, cf. Psalm 2:1). In like manner Zacharias said, "He (God) spake by the mouth of His holy prophets. . . " (Luke 1: 70). Jeremiah said, "Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth" (Jeremiah 1: 9). The Bible is not a record of the thoughts and experiences of the human writers, but it is itself the very Word of God as God revealed Himself to those men. Jesus said to Peter, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17).
There are doubtless many questions about inspiration which arise in our minds and which we cannot answer now. All that God requires of us is that we accept humbly the truth He has given. The media of inspiration have not in any way robbed the Word of God of its perfection.
Admitting that God has spoken through the Scriptures, of necessity it follows that He expressed Himself accurately. The very nature of God demands that this be so. It is unreasonable to imagine that God would even allow His communication to man to go unguarded. Because the Scriptures came from God Himself, they must, like their Author, be inerrant. Inspiration and inerrancy are inseparably linked together. There is no point in claiming inspiration for the Scriptures if they do not possess the quality of freedom from error or if they are liable to mistake. To say that there are errors in the Bible is to say that there are errors in God Himself. The very nature of the case demands inerrancy.
Religious liberalism and Neo-orthodoxy hold to their own brand of inspiration which has in it no need for inerrancy. They judge the Bible inerrant insofar as man sees inerrancy. They assume a half-way position but will not agree to the full and complete inerrancy of all portions of Scripture. One liberal went so far as to say that "the theory of inerrancy that adopts the slogan, 'The Book, the whole Book, and nothing but the Book,' is blinded by a superstitious bibliolatry." We answer such a charge by asserting that the Bible, rather than man, is and must be its own judge. The Scriptures must stand or fall together. Holy Scripture is established upon the highest pinnacle of inerrancy. It is blasphemous to say that the original Scriptures have in them errors of any kind. God Himself is in this Holy Book, the Bible. It is the only Book in all the world that is thus inspired.
The Bible is called "the holy Scriptures," a term which characterizes it and its contents as sacred (II Timothy 3:15). "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace, purified seven times" (Psalm 12:6). "The law of the Lord is perfect. . . " (Psalm 19:7). These statements apply to all of the Scriptures in the original manuscripts, for all of Holy Writ is the Word of God. To say that the Word of God is in the Bible is a half-truth which might imply a lie. The Bible is the record of what God actually said, not what fallible human beings thought He said. Inspiration demands inerrancy, the only view of the original Scriptures which accords with the nature of the God of the Bible.
With all of the acknowledged greatness of the Bible, this most remarkable volume ever to be written, there are some acknowledged difficulties we face. Having said as much, let me follow immediately by adding a few sentences from the pen of Dr. W.A. Criswell, and to which I heartily subscribe. He said, "From beginning to ending there is not a word or a syllable or a revelation in the Word of God that has contradicted or ever will contradict any true, substantiated scientific fact. The reason is very simple. The Lord God Who inspired the Book is the Lord God Who made all things from the beginning . . . The latest scientific theories are confirmed by the Word of God." The atom has been here from the beginning of creation, but man discovered it and put it to use only recently. The waves that carry the sound and sight of radio and television have been here from the beginning, but only in recent years have we discovered them and learned how to use them.
Contemporary theologians and "scholars" dispense with the inerrancy of the Bible with ease on the ground that there are discrepancies and scientific discoveries of the last century which have rendered untenable the entire concept of the Bible as a verbally inspired and inerrant book. This writer humbly acknowledges that there are problems relating to inerrancy that he has found difficult to answer, but he refuses to jettison his belief in Biblical infallibility merely because modern opinion seeks to undermine the foundation of historic Christianity and because he encounters a problem here or there. I am not so foolish as to profess to solve the problems I encounter, but I would be more foolish were I to dismiss the idea of inerrancy in the Bible because of these problems.
In Matthew 27:9 a quotation is attributed to Jeremiah the prophet, but upon close examination it seems to have been taken from Zechariah 11:13. Did the word Zechariah appear in the original text, and did a copyist err in unintentionally substituting the word Jeremiah? Whatever the correct solution to this problem may be, I refuse to accept the assertion that Matthew was not inspired, or that he made a mistake by attributing to Jeremiah that which was actually from Zechariah.
In II Kings 8:26 it is stated that King Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign. However, in II Chronicles 22:2 it is recorded that he was forty-two years of age when he ascended the throne. Now which account is correct? And how can we account for the discrepancy? Is it possible that we have here a human error on the part of a copyist? Yes, this is possible. It would be a simple matter for a scribe to make a mistake in spite of great care having been taken. The rabbi in charge of copying solemnly warned the scribes, "Take heed how thou doest thy work, for thy work is the work of heaven, lest thou drop or add a letter of the manuscript, and so become a destroyer of the world." The age given in II Kings 8:26 is in all probability the correct one. If Ahaziah began to reign when he was forty-two, as recorded in II Chronicles, he would have had to be born two years before his father Jehoram, who was only forty years old when he died (II Kings 8 :17).
The reason for citing these two alleged discrepancies is to acknowledge that we face some minor problems. However, I am deeply impressed by the fact that the Bible makes no attempt to gloss over or hide what appears on the surface to be a contradiction. And if satisfactory answers are not forthcoming at once, this does not mean that the problems cannot be solved. These problems are not new, and they are numerous. They were faced by the early Church Fathers and Reformers, and yet they did not cast aside their belief in Biblical inerrancy. No Christian need hesitate to accept in its entirety the Bible as the inspired and infallible revelation from God. If there is one falsehood in the Bible, we could conclude that none of it came from the holy and almighty God. But it is all true, and to all of it faith gives its witness.
It has been stated many times and in different ways that the Bible needs no defense. The late Dr. Pettingill used to say that it was not necessary to defend a lion, but if you would release the lion he would defend himself. In like manner the Bible needs only to be released, read, preached and taught, and it will defend itself. Certainly there is much to be said for this. But when one hears a continuous chorus of protest against Biblical inerrancy voiced by men who are recognized as Christian leaders, he is compelled to speak out against such spokesmen in defense of the Grand Old Book. There is need for a vigorous presentation in the present battle over the Word of God. We know that the Word of God is indestructible—a truth we are about to consider in this chapter - however, there are multiplied thousands of men, women and young people who have no faith, no hope, and who are without salvation because the Bible has been criticized and condemned by its enemies.
In July 1943 Bibliotheca Sacra published Dr. Wilbur M. Smith's article entitled, The Need for a Vigorous Apologetic in the Present Battle for the Christian Faith. In the article Dr. Smith warned against an indifferent attitude toward antagonism to the Word of God. To illustrate the fearful consequences of such indifference on the part of Christians, he related what has happened in one of the great colleges in our country, the famous academic institution, Dartmouth College, at Hanover, New Hampshire. "Dartmouth College was founded by Ebenezer Wheelock, an ordained clergyman, who wanted to establish a school where Indians of New England could be trained in the truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the first president of Dartmouth, from 1769 to 1779, and was followed by his son, John Wheelock, president for one-third of a century (1779-1815). As a later president said, at its centenary celebration, 'Dartmouth College was conceived in the fervor of piety; born in the throes of a great missionary zeal; dedicated at birth to Christ; cradled the first year in a revival; and stands wedded to religion -- until death.' One of its greatest presidents, under whom Dartmouth enjoyed unusual growth, was Nathan Lord, president from 1828 to 1863, who, says the latest historian of Dartmouth College, 'based the entire philosophy of life upon a belief in the literal accuracy and inerrancy of Holy Writ . . . he was insistent that God should be the mainspring of all the activities of man.' It was Nathan Lord himself who, in a famous letter to the alumni of Dartmouth College at its centenary celebration in 1869, said: 'For Christ the college was founded and has been administered. To Christ all its influence in all times belongs.'
"Of the first fifteen classes graduating from Dartmouth, a majority -- sometimes as many as five-sixths of the class -- entered the ministry. From 1810 to 1830, one-third of its graduates became clergymen, and from 1830 to 1868 nearly one-fourth of its graduates continued to enter the ministry. 'And,' says one of its presidents, 'the astonishing thing was that one-fourth of the preachers graduating from twenty-nine consecutive classes at Dartmouth, were converted during their college course.' Even as late as 1886, the catalog of Dartmouth College included the following statement regarding its religious life and Biblical course: 'A Biblical exercise systematically arranged is being attended by each class on Monday morning. For the present, the subject in the Freshman Year is the Historic Origin of the Bible; in the Sophomore Year, New Testament History; in the Junior Year, the Development of the Church as Exhibited in the Acts; in the Senior Year, Old Testament History from the Creation to the Entrance into Palestine, with special references to Inspiration and the Historic and Scientific Relations to the Scriptures.'
"And what is the condition of Dartmouth today? In the first place, chapel is not compulsory, nor any religious meeting. Furthermore, no course in Bible is compulsory. All of its religious courses are what are called electives. Eight courses in the latest catalog of Dartmouth are listed in the Department of Biblical History and Literature, one in Archaeology and History, one in the Philosophy of Religion, one in the Great World Religions, and one in Ethics. The catalog would not really indicate that any course is to be found in Dartmouth College strictly devoted to the interpretation of the Word of God. There are more courses offered in Dartmouth College today in the one subject of Biography alone than in the whole realm of Biblical history, religion, and religious literature. However, these are what some might call only technical matters of curriculum. There is more to be said.
"In the student daily, published by Dartmouth and about Dartmouth, known as The Dartmouth, in 1927 the following statement appears: 'Dartmouth has always been considered a liberal college. Graduate and undergraduate alike take pride in the freedom of thought that is permitted here . . . On the religious question it is only to be expected that Dartmouth shows a large percentage of atheists and agnostics. Dartmouth is proud of her disbelievers.' This statement, proceeding from the student body, has never been repudiated by the faculty or trustees of Dartmouth College, and we take it to be a true statement of the religious conditions prevailing in that school of 2,000 students, with a faculty of some three hundred instructors."
The complete turn-about at Dartmouth College is typical of the growing trend throughout the world. Scores of colleges and universities that were founded upon God's Word and built with the money contributed by Christian people are today repudiating the Bible and what it teaches. Yes, there is need for a vigorous defense in the battle over the Bible.
Now I have no fear that the Bible will ever disappear from the world. My reasons for believing this are valid ones. First, there is The Witness of Scripture. "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119: 89). This verse is in a remarkable setting. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, its outstanding feature being that all but six of the one hundred and seventy-six verses speak directly about the Word of God. What the inspired writer is saying in verse 89 is that God's Word was established in heaven before He revealed it to men and reduced it to writing. The Word of God is "forever," it is eternal. That which holy men of God wrote on earth is but a copy of what God had already written in heaven in eternity past. You see, there is a permanent quality about the Word of God. It is forever. It was with God in the beginning, and so shall it ever be. "Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth for ever" (Psalm 119:160).
The prophet Isaiah said, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8). Now the Holy Spirit Who inspired Isaiah likewise inspired the apostle Peter when he borrowed from Isaiah. Peter wrote, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (I Peter 1:23-25). Peter describes God's Word here with the Greek word afqartos translated in our English Bible incorruptible, meaning imperishable. Because of its Source, the Word of God, like its Author, is incapable of diminishing one iota. Isaiah said, "The Word of our God shall stand forever." Man may criticize it, ridicule it, and burn copies of it, but it stands and will stand because it is imperishable.
The Lord Jesus said, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18). "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35). Should any Christian be surprised at the remarkable preservation of the Scriptures? Of course not! When one has read what our Lord and the inspired prophets have said about the incorruptibility and indestructibility of God's Holy Word, he should expect it to stand. God Himself has guaranteed their preservation. There is no other explanation for the survival of the Bible through the many centuries. The very fact of the Bible's continued existence and influence should convince any person that this Book is indestructible.
Second, consider The Work of Scribes. The story of the transmission of the Scriptures is a miracle in itself. Even though we are cut off from original manuscripts, God's providential care over His Word during the long period in which the sacred text was transmitted in copies written by hand is a miracle. It is inconceivable that Almighty God, Who chose to give His Word to man as the vital and essential instrument in the salvation of His people, would fail in the preservation of His own written revelation. Both the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Greek text of the New Testament have been preserved with remarkable purity.
The scribes who copied Hebrew manuscripts were keenly aware of the fact that they were handling a sacred and precious revelation. They were trained to exercise the greatest care. They counted not only the words but the letters, making note of how many times each particular word and letter occurred. If an error was detected, the entire sheet would be destroyed and the scribe would begin again. They knew they were handling God's revelation to man; therefore the rule for the copyist to follow was that of pronouncing each word aloud before writing it, and never was a single word to be written from memory. No other written work of ancient times has been transmitted with such care and therefore as accurately as the Word of God has been. Modern scholars who have spent many years in study and research are agreed that the copies of the original documents have been handed down with substantial correctness. Men like F. J. A. Hort, Bishop Brooke, Foss Westcott, Robert Dick Wilson, William Henry Green, Benjamin B. Warfield, and many others have labored long and hard to produce incontrovertible evidence that God has preserved His Word, causing it to triumph over the hazards encountered in the transmission of the Scriptures.
The miracle of preservation is witnessed in the remarkable way in which the apocryphal or spurious books were omitted from the canon. In 1545, at the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church voted to add all the volumes of the Apocrypha to God's Book. But God saw to it that those monstrous absurdities of human origin were never added to His Holy Writings. The Roman Catholic Church has been successful in corrupting many areas of Christendom, but she has failed to force her fourteen extra books into God's Holy Book. What is truly God's Word belongs in God's Book, therefore God saw to it that the uninspired writings of men should not be allowed to creep in and corrupt His message.
Third, consider The Wiles of Satan. Through all of the centuries, God in sovereign grace and by His power watched over and protected His Word against the wicked onslaughts of the Devil. Paul warned the believers at Ephesus that they would be facing "the wiles of the Devil" (Ephesians 6:11). The word "wiles" means methods. Satan's methods are characterized by cunning, deceit, trickery. One of his methods is to infiltrate the good and the holy with the bad and the unholy. This he tried to do when the Roman Catholic Church officially recognized the apocryphal books in A.D. 1545. But God overruled Satan's trickery to include those forgeries.
But the battle against God's Word has been a never-ending one. The story of the Bible's persecution is an amazing one. The hatred against it has been persistent and relentless. Every scheme of destruction which man's unregenerate mind could conjure has been brought against it. During the early centuries of the Christian era some of the most cruel and merciless persecutions were meted out to men and women who held sacred the Word of God. So seemingly effective were the attacks that the enemies supposed they had eradicated the Bible. In A.D. 303 Diocletian, Emperor of the Roman Empire, sought to obliterate the Bible through an official decree that any person possessing even a portion of the Bible should be slain.
When John Wycliffe presented the Scriptures in the vernacular of the people in England, the Roman Catholic Church marked him out for death. That saintly scholar of Baliol College, Oxford, escaped the Devil's attempt to slay him. He died in 1384, but the Roman Church was so infuriated over Wycliffe's publishing the Scriptures in English that in 1415 she dug up his bones, burned the remains with fire, and threw the ashes upon a dunghill. And then in 1816 Pope Pius VII issued a papal bull declaring every organization and institution that distributed the Scriptures "a fiendish instrument for the undermining of the foundations of religion."
And yet the Bible stands, this impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture. Men fling themselves against it in all their fury, but instead of them breaking the Book, the Book crushes them. Bibles have been burned and torn to pieces, but God's Holy Word remains triumphant. In our world of darkness and despair the Bible shines forth as the scintillating light to lead men aright. The Bible is the only light for man's pathway (Psalm 119:105); the one Light shining in a dark place (II Peter 1:19). The Bible is the greatest luminary on the earth to bring men to God. It is the one beacon of hope in the night of men's sin. However dark the shadows of sin and sorrow might become, the Light will always be there for those who will follow.
"Holy Bible, Book divine,
Precious treasure, thou art mine."
When the poet and novelist, Sir Walter Scott, lay dying, he said to his son-in-law, Lockhart, "Son, please bring me the Book." The son-in-law was a bit uncertain because Walter Scott had a large library, so he replied, "Sir, which book? Which book?" The dying saint answered immediately, "My son, there is just one Book. Bring me the Book." At once Lockhart went to the library and returned with Sir Walter's Bible. Yes, there is but one Book!
"Last eve I paused beside the blacksmith's door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chimes;
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
'How many anvils have you had,' said I,
'To wear and batter all these hammers so?'
'Just one,’ said he, and then with twinkling eye,
'The anvil wears the hammer out, you know.'
And so I thought, the anvil of God's Word
For ages skeptics' brows have beat upon,
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone."