By the late Rev. Neil MacIntyre
Extracted from The Free Presbyterian Magazine, Volume 9 (1904-5), and edited.
Part 1 – Introduction
IN this age of scepticism it is necessary, if we are to hold fast the form of sound words, that we should have some intelligent idea of what the Bible is, where it came from, and how it has come to us in a language which we can understand. Need I say that to reap any real and lasting benefit from studying the Bible we require the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit alone that can open our eyes to see the wonders of God’s Word? In proceeding to consider the Bible as the inspired Word of God, I shall briefly bring before you, first, three terms commonly used in connection with this subject: first, “inspiration”; second, “revelation”; and third, “illumination”.
Inspiration means “in-breathing”, and describes the activity of God within the souls of the writers of Scripture as they wrote. This is clearly confirmed by the Apostle Peter when he says, “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,” (2 Pet. 1:21). Inspiration is that peculiar and mysterious influence of the Holy Ghost which was exercised over the minds of the writers of the Old and New Testaments, by which they were preserved and guided to record everything in Scripture with infallible accuracy.
Revelation is an immediate discovery of God’s mind to man. This fact we see referred to in Galatians 1:12, “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit, making truths known to man which could not otherwise have entered his mind, such as, for example, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.
Illumination is the work of the Spirit in all believers, whereby the darkness of their understandings is removed and their minds are enlightened in the knowledge of Christ. We should guard against the common error that all believers are inspired. All believers are certainly illuminated, but no believer is or was inspired, except those who wrote the Old and New Testaments.
Let us now consider the Bible as a book.
“The Bible”: this is the name commonly given to the sacred writings, and it comes from the Greek word “biblos”. “Biblos” may mean any book, but we speak of the Bible as The Book, giving to it that supreme place which no other book possesses. It is also common to speak of the Bible as the Holy Scriptures. The word “scriptures” comes from the Latin word “scripta” and means writings; so that the Holy Scriptures are the Holy Writings. The Bible, then, is the written book of God, given by inspiration of His Spirit.
The Bible is made up of two great parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word “testament” comes from the Latin “testamentum,” and means a solemn written document in which a person declares his will as to the disposal of his estate and effects after his death. The Bible is the testament or covenant which Christ has given to the Church, and has sealed by His death.
The Old Testament, which was written before Christ appeared on earth, was all composed in Hebrew, except a few chapters, which were written in the Chaldee language. About 250 years before the birth of Christ the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, and this translation is called the Septuagint, because allegedly accomplished by about seventy translators.
Perhaps we should briefly advert here to an argument which is commonly used against the inspiration of the Bible. Those who cavil at the Word of God say that because our English Bible is a translation, it cannot be inspired. But it is well known that the original Hebrew manuscripts were not in existence during the time of our Lord’s humiliation, and further, that the Septuagint was then in general use in Palestine, and was, with its revisions, the only translation commonly used till the beginning of the fourth century. And yet, let it be observed, the apostles and the early Christians all reverently referred to this translation as the Word of God. Now, is there any difference in principle between an English and a Greek translation? It was this very Greek translation of the Old Testament with which Timothy was acquainted from childhood, and yet the Holy Spirit, through Paul, terms it “the Holy Scriptures”.
The New Testament was written in Greek after the Ascension of Christ. When the New Testament was completed and then added to the Old Testament, there was now in existence the complete Bible in Greek.
The Bible, when written, was not divided into chapters and verses as we have it now. There were many attempts at dividing the Bible into sections, but the division of it into the present form of chapters is generally ascribed to one Cardinal Hugo in the thirteenth century. The Hebrew Scriptures were divided into verses by Mordecai Nathan in 1445. In 1551, Robert Stephen, a French printer, while travelling from Paris to Lyons, completed his lengthy task of dividing the New Testament into verses. These divisions into chapters and verses have in general been copied into all English and other editions of the sacred Scriptures. Whatever merit we ascribe to these divisions, we cannot reasonably suppose that the breaking up of the text of the New Teastament Scripture into almost 8, 000 verses was done altogether correctly. We only wish to draw attention to the fact that these divisions are not the work of the Holy Spirit, and that there is, therefore, no crime in correcting them. We are not finding fault with the present arrangement, and any alterations would probably cause much inconvenience.
The names prefixed to the books of the Bible are of great antiquity, and the authors of these names are unknown. A few, of course, have Divine authority, such as “The Book of Psalms.” The names of the separate books of the Pentateuch came down to us from the titles found in the Septuagint. The titles of the other books of the Old Testament are generally taken from the opening word or sentence in the books. The titles, especially of the Pentateuch, are very appropriate and most important, as they are full of meaning.
The Pentateuch (which means five books) was written by Moses more than three thousand years ago, and consists of the most ancient writings in the world. Let us look at the appropriateness of the titles of these five books.
Genesis, the name of the first book, means “generation” or “beginning.” You can see how suitable the title is, for this great book gives us the history of the beginning of creation and the generation of man. It gives also the history of the world for about 2369 years. It is common in our day to cast doubts upon the authenticity of Genesis. Professor Denney and others deny that it is inspired, or that Moses was its author, but strange to relate, Genesis is mentioned not less than thirty-two times in the New Testament as being part of God’s Word.
Exodus, which is the title of the second book, means “going forth.” It describes the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, and their journey to the land of Canaan. It gives the history of Israel for about 145 years, and is mentioned in the New Testament fifteen times.
Leviticus, the third book, is so called because it chiefly consists of laws relative to the Levitical priesthood. To a careless reader nothing appears more trifling than some parts of this book, but to the gracious and prudent person, Christ is seen to be the sum and substance of it all. To show that it was received as the Word of God by Christ and the inspired apostles, it is mentioned thirteen times in the New Testament.
Numbers, which is the fourth book, is so called because it relates to the numbering of the people. It shows that the promise which God gave to Abraham that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude was fulfilled. It covers a period of thirty-eight years of the life of Israel, and is mentioned in the New Testament eighteen times.
Deuteronomy, which is the fifth and last book of Moses, signifies “the law repeated.” It briefly touches on many former circumstances, and ends with an account of the death of Moses, which is supposed to have been written by Joshua. Perhaps there is no book in the Old Testament which has suffered more than this at the hands of the critics, especially Professor Robertson Smith. The Lord of the Bible, foreseeing that this book would be assailed with such terrible fury, encompassed it with a high and strong wall. When Christ was tempted in the wilderness by the devil we find that He took out of the Book of Deuteronomy three passages by which He met and overcame Satan (Deut. 6:13, 16; and 8:3; compared with Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). This book is mentioned eighteen times in the New Testament.
We hope to deal in a future article with how the Bible has come to us in a language we can understand.
Rev Neil MacIntyre (1867-1953), a native of Lochyside, Fort William, and a nephew of the eminent Donald Macmaster, Strontian, was a divinity student in the Free Church of Scotland when it passed the notorious Declaratory Act of 1892. Next year he joined those who left the Free Church to form what was later known as the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. He was ordained and inducted to the pastoral charge of Glendale congregation in 1899, translated to Stornoway in 1908, and to Edinburgh in 1923. A sound, clear preacher, he excelled in the faculty of spiritualising Old Testament themes. He was a successful Convener of the Church’s Jewish and Foreign Mission Committee for many years. After a ministry of 27 years in Edinburgh he resigned in 1950 because of old age. Three years later he passed away to his eternal rest at the advanced age of 86 years.
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