by David Sutton
June 16, 2010 Aaron Blumer completed a four-part series on perfect-text preservation. He stated that the Bible teaches preservation but not in a word-perfect form and not to be found in an identifiable text. His final installment included critiques from several chapters from Thou Shalt Keep Them (TSKT), including two chapters that I wrote. As a guest blogger on “What Is Truth,” I want to deal with two of Mr. Blumer’s arguments against “It Is Written.”
The chapter “It Is Written” dealt with the use of the perfect passive verb gegraptai (“it is written”) as an argument in proving perfect preservation. Just as a reminder, the perfect tense in the Greek means that an action took place in the past with the results ongoing. For instance, when Jesus said in John 19 “It is finished,” He used the perfect tense, signifying that the work He completed on the cross for man’s salvation and God’s satisfaction was now complete, and His work continues to suffice God for the redemption of man’s soul for all eternity.
Probably the most outstanding gegraptai uses occur in the Matthew 4 and Luke 4 where Jesus uses this phrase when quoting the OT to refute Satan’s temptations. In TSKT, I made the point that what Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy was written down by Moses and continued written down some 1400 years later when Jesus referred to those passages. Thus, if Jesus claimed those words were still written down in His day, then we should understand that we still have them written down in our day.
Blumer says we cannot make this inference because the perfect tense does not say what will take place in the future.
The purpose of this post is to show not only that future inference of “it is written” is valid grammatically but also that it is supported biblically.
First, if we say technically that the perfect tense only reaches to the present, then when the future becomes the present, the results also apply. So by implication, the ramifications of the perfect tense can extend into the future. For example, in Ephesians 2:8 Paul uses the perfect tense with the words “are saved.” (Literally, “For by grace are ye having been saved through faith.”) We were saved in the past and the results of that salvation continue to the present. So what about tomorrow? Will the believer be saved then? Yes. When tomorrow comes, the believer can say that he is still in a state of having been saved. The grammar of the perfect tense logically can imply ramifications into the future. This being the case, the perfect tense can imply that preservation extends into the future.
Second, Scripture supports inferring that the perfect tense of gegraptai supports the promise of perfect preservation. Scriptural implications are only valid if they are supported by Scripture. Let’s go back to the Ephesians 2:8 argument. Does the Bible teach future salvation to those who believed in the past? Most certainly, in many places (cf. John 3:16; 6:40; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:14, et. al.). So, with salvation Biblical teaches supports the grammatical implication. The Bible also teaches that the words of Scripture will continue both in heaven and in earth (Psalm 12:6-7; 119:89; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 5:17-18; 24:35; I Peter 1:24). Therefore, the grammatical inference from the perfect tense of gegraptai is supported by the clear biblical statements of preservation.
A second argument Blumer makes against the chapter is that quoting a few passages from the OT does not indicate that the entire OT is preserved. The Bible often uses the method of allowing the smaller part to refer to the whole. For instance, we find that three times God warns us not to tamper with the words that were written in Scripture (Deut. 12:32; Pro. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). This does not mean that only three books of the Bible were off limits. The parts apply to the whole. Furthermore, Peter summed up that the whole of Scripture is preserved:
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 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).
A blessing of studying any doctrine of the Bible is that one finds it thoroughly consistent with the rest of Scripture. Continued biblical discussion on the topic of preservation serves to strengthen one’s belief on the issue. The old Snicker’s commercial said “every way you slice it, it comes out peanuts.” From every angle one slices the preservation argument, it comes out perfect preservation.