The Perspicuity of Scripture

The perspicuity of the Bible means, “that Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person, deep enough for highly qualified readers, clear in its essential matters, obscure in some places to people because of their sinfulness, understandable through ordinary means, understandable by an unsaved person on an external level, understandable in its significance by a saved person through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and available to every believer whose faith must rest on the Scriptures.” 1  The Scripture must be clear or understandable if it is the source of saving faith (2 Timothy 3:15b), a light to one’s path (Psalm 119:105; 2 Peter. 1:19a), and profitable for equipping the saints (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The Scripture must be clear enough that common people (Mark 12:37b) and children can understand it (Deuteronomy 6:6-7a; 2 Timothy 3:14-15a).

This does not means that all of the Bible is equally clear or understandable.  Some passages are more clear then others.  Even Peter acknowledge that some of Paul’s writings were difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16).  Any difficulties one may have in understanding the Bible is due to their own finiteness and/or sinfulness.  The Bible cannot be blamed for one’s lack of understanding.  Never once did Jesus say that the Scriptures were not clear or understandable.  In fact, when the religious leaders tried to make the Scriptures less than clear or understandable, Jesus’ accused them of either not reading the Scriptures or simply not knowing the Scripture (Matthew 21:42; 22:29).

As well, just because something is clear, does not mean that it is simple.  Sometimes, due to the gaps of time, language and culture, an explanation is warranted. 2  Philip helped the Ethiopian eunuch understand Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:30-31).  Even the disciples needed the Scriptures explained (Luke 24:44-45).  These gaps that exist between the original readers and today’s reader necessitates the ministry of teaching.  This is why Jesus gifted the church with apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers and why one of the qualifications of the bishop of the church is the ability to teach (Ephesians 4:11; Timothy 3:2).

It should also be noted that since the Holy Spirit employed common people to write the Scriptures using the words and grammar of the people, then even the modern student of Scripture, following the ‘laws of language’ and relying on the work of the Holy Spirit, can determine the clear meaning of Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).

__________

  1. Larray D. Pettegrew, “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” The Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 15, Number 2 (Fall 2004): 209
  2. Bernard Ramm states, “Words and sentences occur in the context of a culture. Their meaning depends in a large part to these contexts in which they occur and without that context it is either difficult or impossible to know the meaning of the words or sentences. It is therefore no great thing nor something out of the ordinary that we should have words, concepts, and sentences that puzzle us in Holy Scripture.” Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970), 99.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Inerrancy and Infalliblity of the Bible

The superintending, of the Holy Spirit, prevented the human authors from recording any distortions or falsehoods. To put it another way, since God cannot lie (cf. Romans 3:4) and the Scriptures are breathed out by God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16) then the Word of God is free from error or inerrant (Psalm 33:4a; 119:160a; Proverbs 8:8; 30:5a; John 17:17b).  Inerrancy means that, “the Scriptures possess the quality of freedom from error. They are exempt from the liability to mistake, incapable of error. In all their teachings they are in perfect accord with truth.1 Truth includes “approximations, free quotations, language of appearances, and different accounts of the same event as long as those do not contradict.”2

In other words, different writers might use different words to describe the same incident. For example, Luke 4:1 states “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,” while Mark 1:12 states “the Spirit driveth Him (Jesus) into the wilderness.” Luke and Mark depict the same event (the temptation of Jesus) but use two different terms (led and driveth) to describe how the Spirit was involved in Jesus going into the wilderness. Also, inherency allows the writers to record the same event from different points of view. For example, the Feeding of the Five Thousand is recorded in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15. Each of the authors wrote about the same event but each includes information not revealed by the other three.

Inerrancy includes not only theological issues, but extends to all issues upon which Scripture speak. “Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives. […] Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything they teach, whether that teaching has to do with doctrine, history, science, geography, geology, or other disciplines or knowledge.3

When the Bible speaks on these matters, it must be inerrant; otherwise it is not trustworthy. If the Bible is not trustworthy on earthly matters, how can it be trustworthy on heavenly matters? Often times what the Scriptures teach about heavenly matters are uniquely tied to earthly matters. For example, Paul links the reality of a literal, historical Jesus to a literal, historical Adam (Romans 5:12, 17).  As well, the birth of Jesus is tied to the geographical location of Bethlehem. The same verse which prophesies of the location also teaches the eternality of Jesus (Micah 5:2).

Like inspiration, inerrancy applies only to the autographs. While the autographs were free from error, this does not mean that all the apographs were errorless. God, has preserved a line of apographs which are exact copies of the inerrant originals. Jesus did not have the Old Testament autographs, so He used apographs. By using the apographs, Jesus affirmed that a line of errorless apographs were existent (John 10:35b).

Infallibility means that the Scriptures are true and reliable in all that they teach. Since the Scripture does not contain error, than it is incapable of teaching error (Psalm 12:6a; Proverbs 30:5-6; 2 Peter 1:19a).  The term pure (ṭāhôr) means that God’s Word is free from fraud, falsehood, or deceit. The term more sure (bébaios) means reliable or trustworthy. Since Scripture is free from error (inerrant), it is incapable of teaching error (infallible). It is impossible for the Scriptures to mislead, though man’s twisting of Scripture could mislead.

Inerrancy and infallibility are the guarantors of the Scriptures profitability concerning doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction. Because the Bible contains no errors and is incapable of teaching error we can trust it to: 1) lay a solid foundation for all of life and faith; 2) equip us with the ability to discern and confront false teachings; 3) discern and correct bad behaviors; and 4) develop right behavior.

__________

  1. E. J. Young, Thy Word Is Truth. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), p. 113.
  2. Charles C. Ryrie, What You Should Know About Inerrancy. (Chicago: Moody, 1981), p. 30.
  3. James Montgomery Boice, Does Inerrancy Matter? (Oakland: International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, 1979), p. 13.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Inspiration and the Bible

Inspiration is “the Holy Spirit’s superintending [i.e. direction] over the writers so that while writing according to their own styles and personalities, the result was God’s Word written—authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error in the original autographs.”1  Inspiration is necessary to guarantee that what God chose to reveal to man was accurately recorded by man.  There are five key aspects to inspiration: 1) the divine author, 2) the human author, 3) the result of the divine/human authorship, 4) the extent of inspiration to the selection of words, and 5) the relationship to the original manuscripts.

Inspiration involves divine authorship.  The term inspiration (theopneustos) literally means God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).   It comes from two Greek terms theos and pneuma.  The term pneuma is the same term translated as Spirit.  God did not breathe on the text to make it inspired, but rather, breathed, the Scriptures, out of His mouth.

Inspiration involves human authorship.  However, inspiration applies only to the words, not the persons. In other words, God communicated His words to human authors, who in turn wrote down what was spoken.  These men were not supernatural or inspired.  Scripture was not the by-product of their logic or reasoning (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21).

Rather than producing the Scriptures on their own, the human authors were moved (phérō) by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).  This means that they were lead, directed, or carried along by the Holy Spirit.  This is what is known as the superintending  of the Holy Spirit.  Though God communicated His Word to man, it was not merely dictation.  These holy men were not passive instruments or secretaries.  While God spoke to them, He allowed their personalities and vocabularies to express His Words.  This can be seen in the various writing styles of the sixty-six books of the Bible.  For example: John’s writings reflect the style of a fisherman — simple and straightforward; Luke’s writings reflect the style of a doctor — sophisticated and detailed;  Paul’s writings reflect the style of a lawyer — philosophical and difficult.

Since the Holy Sprit superintended the human authorship, God’s Word was recorded without error in the original autographs.  Autographs refer to the original writings.  While there are no known original documents in existence, we do have apographs or copies of the originals.  It is important to understand that inspiration only applies to the original writings or autographs.

The inspiration of Scripture is best understood as verbal-plenary inspiration.  By verbal, it is meant that each and every word of Scripture is breathed out by God.  In other words, God communicated not by thought or ideas but accurately and precisely through words.  Jesus alluded to the importance of inspired words when He stated that the very letters of the words were inspired (Matthew 5:18).

The jot is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  The tittle is the smallest stroke of a Hebrew letter which distinguishes between two similar letters (i.e. the stroke that differentiates between an O and a Q).  Verbal inspiration applies not only to the words themselves, but to the letters and parts of letters.  As well, many of Jesus’ debates or arguments with the religious establishment hinged on the particular use of certain words (Matthew 22:43-44; John 8:58; 10:34).

If God only breathed out ideas or thoughts, then Jesus’ arguments on the basis of words would be rendered void.

By plenary, it is meant that all Scripture, in all its parts, are equally from God.  There is no part of Scripture that is more inspired than another part.  The Law is just as inspired as the Gospels, the Psalms are just as inspired as the Epistles.   By teaching of Himself from the three parts of the Old Testament (i.e. Law, Prophets, and Psalms) Jesus affirmed that they were equally inspired (Luke 24:44-45).

As well, the term ‘all’ (pás) refers to the whole as well as each and every part.  Thus, Paul’s use of the term all (pás) in the statement “all Scripture…” (2 Timothy 3:16) demonstrates the fact that Scripture in its whole and in its parts is equally inspired.   If only certain parts of Scripture are inspired, which parts are?  If some portions of Scripture are more inspired than others, are the more inspired, more trustworthy?

__________

  1.  Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), p. 160.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

A Book By Any Other Name

The term Bible comes from the Greek term biblion and refers to a scroll or more commonly, a roll of papyrus. Papyrus is a thick paper made from a plant common in the Nile Delta region of Egypt. For centuries, papyrus was the normal regular means of recording information. In the case of Scripture, entire books of the Bible were written and recorded on these large papyrus rolls. The term biblion is used in Luke 4:17 to refer to the sacred writings of Isaiah.  The term biblion is also used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) to refer to Old Testament writings (cf. Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 17:18).1

The term Scripture comes from the Greek term graphē and refers to both the Old and New Testaments as sacred writings (2 Timothy 3:16).  Jesus and the Gospel writers referred to the Old Testament as Scripture (Matthew 21:42).2  The Early Church referred to the Old Testament as Scripture (Acts 1:16).3  Paul referred to the Old Testament as Scripture (Romans 1:1-2).  Paul referred to both the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:7) and Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 25:4) as Scripture in the same verse (1 Timothy 5:18).  James, brother of Jesus and bishop of Jerusalem, referred to the Old Testament as Scripture (James 2:23; 4:5).  Peter referred to the Old Testaments as Scriptures (1 Peter 2:6; 2 Peter 1:20).  Peter also referred to Paul’s writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

The phrase Word of God is used in both the Old and New Testaments to recognize the writings as being from God (John 10:35; Hebrews 4:12).

__________

  1. Other usages of biblion in the Septuagint: Deuteronomy 28:58-61; 29:21, 27; 30:10; 31:24, 26; Joshua 1:8; 8:31, 34; 23:6; 24:36; 1 Samuel 10:25; 1 Kings 14:19, 29; 15:7, 23, 31; 16:5, 14, 20, 27; 22:39; 22:45; 2 Kings 8:23; 10:34; 12:19; 13:8, 12; 14:6, 15, 18, 28; 15:6, 11, 15, 21, 26, 31, 36; 16:19; 20:20; 21:17, 25; 22:8, 11, 13, 16; 23:2-3, 21, 24, 28; 24:5; 1 Chronicles 9:1; 2 Chronicles 16:11; 17:9; 20:34; 24:27; 25:4; 25:26; 28:26; 32:32; 34:14-16, 18, 21, 24, 30-31; 35:12, 27; 36:8; Nehemiah 8:1, 3, 5, 8, 18; 9:3; 12:23; 13:1; Psalm 40:7; Isaiah 34:16; Jeremiah 30:2; 36:2, 4, 8, 10-11, 13, 18, 32; 45:1; 51:60, 63; Daniel 9:2; 12:4; Nahum 1:1.
  2. cf. Matthew 22:29; 26:54, 56; Mark 12:10; 12:24; 14:49; 15:28; Luke 4:21; 24:27; 24:32; 24:45; John 2:22; 5:39; 7:38; 7:42; 10:35; 13:18; 17:12; 19:24, 28, 36, 37; 20:9
  3. cf. Acts 8:32, 35; 17:2, 11; 18:24, 28

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016

Biblical Doctrine is Foundational to Service

Biblical doctrine should be studied because it provides the believer with the tools for serving God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

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, throughly furnished unto all good works. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is profitable.  Profitable (ōphéleia) means beneficial, advantageous, or useful. All Scripture, that includes the Old and New Testament, is beneficial, advantageous, and useful to the believer. The Scriptures are profitable to perfect (ártios), that is equip, the person of God for service. The term doctrine (didachḗ) refers to the instructional content of the Old and New Testaments. Reproof (elénchō) refers to rebuking wrong beliefs or behaviors. Correction (epanórthōsis) means to restore something to its correct position. Instruction (paideía) refers to training in godly behavior.

Reproof, correction, and instruction are practices, that is, things we do with the Scripture. However, notice doctrine precede them. Practice without a doctrinal foundation is nothing more than pharisaic legalism. Without doctrine (along with reproof, correction, and instruction) the believer will never be equipped to serve God.

© Rev. Gregory G. Capel, Jr. – 2016