What About Children and the Illiterate Who Cannot Read the Scripture?

One of the promises of Isaiah 59:21 is that the word will be the mouth of the covenant keeper. The four-fold reference to the words, in thy mouth, speaks of perpetual accessibility for edification, evangelism, meditation and conversation. But what about the illiterate adult or the young child who cannot read. Of what value is the Scripture to them?

Turretin points out that the universality of this promise to every individual believer or church at every point throughout history is not the emphasis. Dealing with individuals who cannot read, such as young children, and thus could not have the word in their own mouths of their own accord, Turretin writes, “Although the Scriptures formally [the writing] are of no personal use to those who cannot read (analphabetous), yet materially [the doctrine] they serve for their instruction and edification much as the doctrines preached in the church are drawn from this source.” Turretin, Institutes, 59.

This succinct statement demonstrates the effectiveness of the doctrinae substantia through verbal communication. That as the voice of a man or woman communicates the word of God, in the spoken word of God the hearer hears the viva Vox Dei, the living voice of God. At the entry for viva vox and viva Vox Dei Richard Muller writes,

“This term was applied to the Word of God spoken directly to Israel before the Mosaic inscription of the law to the Word of God spoken directly to the prophets. In addition, because of the Reformers’ emphasis upon the power and efficacy of Scripture, the term was used by the Reformers and the Protestant orthodox to indicate the reading aloud of vernacular Scriptures during worship. Reformation and post-Reformation interpretation of Scripture, for all its emphasis upon a strict grammatical reading of the text, holds in common with the earlier exegesis a sense of the direct address of the text to the present-day church. The preacher is not one who applies an old word to new situations, but rather he is a servant and an instrument of the living Word, the viva Vox Dei, for its effective operation in the world.” Muller, Dictionary, 328

The speaker of the written Scripture, according to Muller’s research, “is a servant and an instrument of the living Word, the viva Vox Dei, for its effective operation in the world.” A dependent audience for this effective operation is those who cannot read. Considering that in cities like Baltimore, MD, 77% of high school graduates read on an elementary level or not at all, the importance of the spoken Word is heightened. The Bible Version debate is essentially less relevant to the child and the illiterate, their soul’s future depending on the clear articulation of the viva Vox Dei to them by parents and servants of the Lord.

Are there any critical text proponents that argue that their preferred novel version is the viva Vox Dei? If it is not the living word of God they are sharing, what hope do they give to those who cannot read?

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “What About Children and the Illiterate Who Cannot Read the Scripture?

  1. I do worry, however, that reasoning like this will be seized upon by text critics and modern version advocates as being more consistent either their view that the actual words of God are not sacrosanct, but merely the teaching and doctrines derived from them. How do we confront that?


    1. Don’t worry — Turretin and Muller are eminently reliable. Additionally, since the late 80’s, anecdotally, I have yet to hear an advocate of the CT or MVOism say that their novel creation is the viva Vox Dei, the living voice of God (I was just thinking, if 40 years of anecdotal empirical evidence moves the evidence from anecdotal to something more substantive?) There is no substantia doctrinae without the substantia verba. If you don’t have the words, you don’t have the doctrine to articulate. Blessings!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: