Let’s start first with a very mundane example. Suppose there is a college professor teaching a class on English Literature. This class has lectures, assignments, tests, and quizzes. This is the content of the class, but there is also a kind of meta-education, an education happening beyond the content of the class. That meta-education includes things like the role of the syllabus, when and how to hand in assignments, punctuality, time management, study habits, how best to take notes, how to listen etc.
In every class there is an education happening which is often not explicitly contained in the content of the class. It is an education which is outside the scope of English Literature but is nevertheless part and parcel to a class on English Literature. And of course it is counterproductive when the meta-education and the content of the class come into conflict [e.g., the professor is chronically late, the syllabus is inaccurate]
Let us now consider a more theological example. Suppose you and I are walking the streets of ancient Jerusalem. Suppose further that you are a Christian and I am not.
Say that we stop for lunch right around noon time and while eating our lunches Jesus of Nazareth walks by. To this point I have not met Jesus nor have I heard His teaching and in this context you say, “That person is God manifest in the flesh.” Until that point I knew nothing of this Jesus and now I am being told that this man who has no form or comeliness is the living and true God.
From my lost and dying disposition I am being taught something about Jesus without ever hearing His teaching. That something is that that man over there is God Himself. That is, there is a meta-teaching taking place, a teaching beyond the locutions of Jesus, in that moment. Jesus “teaches” us that He is the Son of God equal with the Father by simply existing as the Son of God. As soon as you inform me of the truth that Jesus is God I have learned something about Jesus and God without ever hearing a single word from Jesus’ lips. And again, if Jesus told a lie or if it was found out that Lazarus wasn’t actually dead this meta-teaching would be defeated by the content of this Jesus’ words and actions.
With these two examples in mind let us now consider the Scriptures. Say I put the Nestle/Aland 28 on a table and let us suppose you are lost, dead in your trespasses and sins. Let us suppose further that you have never read a single word of Scripture. After placing the NA28 there on the table I say, “This is God’s revelation to man and most of its contents are divine” or “This is God’s revelation to man and somewhere in the body and apparatus of this NT are found the words of God.”
Without ever opening the NA28, such statements teach us something in a meta-didactic kind of way. Nowhere in the NT is such a claim made that “most of its contents are from God” nor does the Bible claim that “somewhere in the body and apparatus of this NT are found the words of God.” Nevertheless evangelicals regularly assert such things are the case. They tell the world these things are what God’s word teaches by its very existence.
The current accepted claim among Christians is that God’s NT as it currently exists is to some degree an amalgamation of God’s words and men’s words.
No Christian wants to so plainly make this claim but it is nevertheless the standard argument used by Christians to other Christians both from behind the pulpit and from behind the academic lectern.
Neither the assertion that “most of the content of the NA28” is Scripture nor the assertion that “every word of God is found in the body or apparatus of the NA28” is exegetically grounded. Yet it is in vogue to assert something like God’s NT as it currently exists is to some degree an amalgamation of God’s words and men’s words.
As such men are teaching something which the Bible does not teach about itself. They are teaching that it is Christian to believe something about the Bible which the Bible does not teach about itself. Current evangelicalism holds to a teaching about the Bible’s current existence which is beyond or outside of the teaching of the Bible, a meta-teaching, a meta-didactic. What is worse that meta-didactic is contrary to the teaching of Scripture with regard to its existence and function.
In sum, the content of Scripture itself defeats the meta-teaching that the NA28 is God’s word because most of the content of the NA28 is Scripture and the assertion that every word of God is found in the body or apparatus of the NA28. Evangelicalism must abandon these claims unless they are able to ground them in Scripture which at present they seem wholly unable to do.
We on the other hand believe what the Bible says about itself when is claims that every word of God’s word is pure. We assert further that the New Testament Textus Receptus is the word of God. Therefore, we assert that the Textus Receptus is the pure word of God in every word.
Our opponents may dispute our conclusion in favor of the TR but at least our belief is consistent with the teaching of Scripture. Likewise, we dispute the conclusion that the NA28 is pure word of God but worst of all, our opponents position that the NT word of God = what is in the body of the NA28 + something of NA28’s textual apparatus is wholly ungrounded in the teaching of Scripture.
For the sake of argument, we may be wrong but at least our belief is consistent with Scripture’s teaching. Our opponents may also be wrong and their belief is inconsistent with Scripture’s teaching.
2 thoughts on “Meta-Didactics and the Word of God”
Amen. I just taught yesterday from Revelation 19, and verse 10 where it says, “These are the true sayings of God.” Just one of many places where the Bible claims to be the true Word of God, and we should trust it.
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Indeed. Thanks for the comment, Jimmy.
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