I relatively recently wrote out the confession of faith in the inspiration and preservation of Scripture of which the following is part 1. I would like blog readers to read and carefully ponder what is affirmed in this part, and the parts to follow, and engage in any discussion over them in the comment section. There is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding of what Scripture teaches in these areas and what its implications are on texts and versions, and I believe that the confession below will help clarify what the Biblical position is. After posting the confession in two parts, and engaging in whatever discussion comes up, I intend to post the entire confession in one post, and ask you if you are willing to subscribe to it, as I have done. I believe it would assist in clarity among brethren and churches on this matter if the following confession were widely adopted. So please read it with that in mind, and feel free to forward the post(s) and the entire confession that follows to others who might also be interested in its content or be willing to subscribe to it. Part two of the confession is posted here. The entire confession is already here in the Bibliology section.
In light of modern controversies over the matters of the inspiration and preservation of Scripture, and to prevent misunderstanding of my own position on these questions, I have thought it appropriate to write a confession of my faith on these essential Biblical truths.
I confess that God, through a supernatural operation of His Spirit, used holy men to miraculously produce the autographs of the 66 canonical books of the Bible, controlling them in such a manner that the very words, and all of the words, that they recorded were the very words of God Himself (2 Peter 1:16-21). This miraculous production of the autographs of the Bible was absolutely unique. It never has been, and never will be, replicated by any individual or group of individuals whatever who copy, collate, compile, or translate Biblical manuscripts. Consequently, all views that affirm that any copyist, compiler, or translator of the Bible was controlled in the same miraculous manner as the original writers of Scripture must be rejected. I therefore reject the views of Peter Ruckman, Gail Riplinger, and all others who affirm that the King James Version contains advanced revelation or is superior to the original language texts of the Bible.[i]
I confess that the verbally, plenarily inspired Scriptures are the product of this miraculous process (2 Timothy 3:16). While entirely rejecting the idea that inspiration or enscripturation as a process ever has been or ever will be replicated, I confess that accurate copies of the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic autographa are God’s Word, having in them the breath of God (Matthew 4:4) in the same manner that the original manuscripts were the Word of God, inasmuch as the words of such copies are identical to the words of the autographs. Furthermore, any copy, to the extent that it has the same words and sentences as the autographs, is to that extent the inspired Word of God. I further confess, in accordance with classical Baptist and orthodox Protestant Bibliology,[ii] that, in the same sense that Scripture, when translated, is still Scripture, and thus is still holy, living, powerful, sharper than any twoedged sword, and able to save (Romans 1:2; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:21), it also still has both the quality of having the breath of God in it and the resultant quality of being profitable (2 Timothy 3:16, pasa graphe Theopneustos kai ophelimos).[iii]
Concerning the preservation of Scripture,[iv] I confess:
1.) God revealed the Scriptures so men could know His will both in the Old and New Testaments and in the future (Deuteronomy 31:9-13, 24-29; 1 John 1:1-4, 2:1-17; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:12-15). The Bible is clear that no Scripture was intended for only the original recipient (Romans 15:4, 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 10:11). God intended for His Word to be recognized and received by the churches as a whole (e.g., Colossians 4:16; Revelation 1:3-4). The inspired text of Scripture is to be guarded (1 Timothy 6:20-21) as a “form (pattern) of sound words” for the church (2 Timothy 1:13-14) and used to instruct all future churches (2 Timothy 2:2).
2.) The Bible promises that God will preserve every one of His words forever down to the very jot and tittle,[v] the smallest letter (Psalm 12:6-7, 33:11, 119:152, 160; Isaiah 30:8, 40:8; 1 Peter 1:23-25; Matthew 5:18, 24:35).
3.) The Bible assures us that God’s words are perfect and pure (Psalm 12:6-7; Proverbs 30:5-6).
4.) The Bible promises that God would make His words generally available to every generation of believers (Deuteronomy 29:29; 30:11-14; Isaiah 34:16, 59:21; Matthew 4:4; 5:18-19; 2 Peter 3:2; Jude 17).
5.) The Bible promises there will be certainty as to the words of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19; 2 Peter 1:19; Luke 1:4; Proverbs 1:23, 22:20-21; Daniel 12:9-10; 1 John 2:20).
6.) The Bible promises that God would lead His saints into all truth, and that the Word, all of His words, are truth (John 16:13, 17:8, 17). Believers are not to set themselves above the Word but receive it with the faith of a little child, rejecting secular and worldly “wisdom” (Matthew 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 3:18-20).
7.) God states that the Bible will be settled to the extent that someone could not add or take away from His words and effectually corrupt them (Revelation 22:18-19; Deuteronomy 12:32).
8.) The Bible shows that the true churches of Christ would receive and guard these words (Matthew 28:19-20; John 17:8; Acts 8:14, 11:1, 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Timothy 3:15).
9.) The Bible presents as a pattern that that believers would receive these words from other believers (Deuteronomy 17:18; 29:29; 1 Kings 2:3; Proverbs 25:1; Acts 7:38; Hebrews 7:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Philippians 4:9; Colossians 4:16).
10.) The Bible shows that God’s promises may appear to contradict science and reason. In Genesis 2 we see that a newly created world may look ancient. However, the Scriptures remind us that “it is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8). We believe in order that we may understand.
11.) Christ taught the preservation of His very words, since they will be the standard in the future judgment (John 12:48) and men will be accountable to obey all of them. He also warned of the vanity of ignoring His actual words (Matthew 7:26). Christ emphatically declared, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). In Matthew 22:29 Jesus rebuked men, saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.” If the Scriptures were only accessible in long-lost original autographs then why would the Lord chide people for being ignorant of words that were not available? Believers are commanded to contend for the faith (Jude 3) and this faith is based upon the words of God (Romans 10:17).
12.) In summary, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4) and “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Scripture, and faith in the promises of God, must be the “glasses” through which we evaluate historical data about the preservation of the Bible. Scripture teaches the verbal, plenary preservation of the verbally, plenarily inspired autographa (Psalm 12:6-7; Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35); that the preserved words would be perpetually available to God’s people (Isaiah 59:21); and that Israel was the guardian of Scripture in the Mosaic dispensation (Romans 3:1-2), and the church the guardian in the dispensation of grace (1 Timothy 3:15). The Holy Spirit would lead the saints to accept the words the Father gave to the Son to give to His people (John 16:13; 17:8). Believers can know with certainty where the canonical words of God are, because they are to live by every one of them (Matthew 4:4; Revelation 22:18-19) and are going to be judged by them at the last day (John 12:48).
[i] See the articles “What About Ruckman?” and “The Problem with New Age Bible Versions by Gail Riplinger” by David Cloud, accessible, like the other resources mentioned in this confession, at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7.
[ii] The affirmation of absolute verbal and plenary inspiration for the original language text, and a secondary, derivative inspiration for accurate translations, is the classic position confessed by Baptists and Protestants in the Reformation and post-Reformation era, in continuity with earlier periods of church history. For Baptist sources, see the reference in footnote #3. Richard Muller explains the historic Protestant position:
[Alongside] the insistence of the Reformed that the very words of the original are inspired, the theological force of their argument falls in the substance or res rather than on the individual words: translations can be authoritative quoad res because the authority is not so much in the words as in the entirety of the teaching as distributed throughout the canon. . . . [T]he issue of “things” (res) and “words” (verba) . . . is crucial to the Protestant doctrine of Scripture and is, as many of the other elements of the Protestant doctrine, an element taken over from the medieval tradition and rooted in Augustine’s hermeneutics. . . . [T]he words of the text are signs pointing to the doctrinal “things.” This distinction between signa and res significata, the sign and the thing signified, carries over into the language typical of scholastic Protestantism, of the words of the text and the substance of the text, of the authority of translations not strictly quoad verba but quoad res, according to the substance or meaning indicated by the original. . . . [O]nly the [original language] sources are inspired (theopneustoi) both according to their substance (quoad res) and according to their words (quoad verba)[.] This must be the case, since holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, 2 Pet. 1:21, who dictated to them not only the substance (res) but also the very words (verba). For the same reason, the Hebrew and the Greek are the norms and rules by which the various versions are examined and evaluated. . . . [There is] a distinction between authenticity and authorship quoad verba, which belongs only to the Hebrew and Greek originals, and authenticity and authority quoad res, which inheres in valid translations. . . . Thus translations can be used, but with the reservation that only the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament are the authentic norms of doctrine and the rule by which doctrinal controversy is to be decided[.] Versions that are congruent with the sources are indeed authentic according to substance (quoad res); for the Word of God [may be] translated into other languages: the Word of God is not to be limited, since whether it is thought or spoken or written, it remains the Word of God. Nonetheless they are not authentic according to the idiom or word, inasmuch as the words have been explained in French or Dutch. In relation to all translations, therefore, the Hebrew and Greek texts stand as antiquissimus, originalis, and archetypos. Thus, translations are the Word of God insofar as they permit the Word of God to address the reader or hearer: for Scripture is most certainly the Word of God in the things it teaches and to the extent that in and by means of it power of God touches the conscience. Even so, in translations as well as in the original the testimony of the Holy Spirit demonstrates the graciousness of God toward us. All translations have divine authority insofar as they correctly render the original: the tongue and dialect is but an accident, and as it were an argument of divine truth, which remains one and the same in all idioms. (pgs. 269, 326-327, 403, 416, 427-428, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; volume 2, Holy Scripture: The cognitive foundation of theology (2nd ed.), Richard Muller. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003; quotations and original sources not reproduced)
[iii] See “Are Accurate Copies and Translations of Scripture Inspired? A Study of 2 Timothy 3:16,” at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7.
[iv] A book length exposition of the Biblical doctrine of preservation is Thou Shalt Keep Them: A Biblical Theology of the Perfect Preservation of Scripture, ed. Kent Brandenburg, El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2003. The book is a fine presentation of the doctrine by a separatist Baptist. It can be purchased at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7. The website also contains an exposition of a number of passages related to the preservation of Scripture. Compare the list of presuppositions on the preservation of Scripture found on pgs. 73-74, “Preservation of the Bible: Providential or Miraculous? A Response to Jon Rehurek of the Master’s Seminary,” Paul Ferguson. The Burning Bush 15:2 (July 2009) 67-100.
[v] See “The Debate over the Inspiration of the Hebrew Vowel Points” and “Evidences for the Inspiration of the Hebrew Vowel Points,” by Thomas Ross, and “The Antiquity of the Hebrew Language, Letters, Vowels, and Accents” by John Gill at http://sites.google.com/site/thross7 for the implications of this confession to the question of the inspiration and authority of the Hebrew vowel points.