All Scripture and Inspiration

In the first century AD, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to a young preacher regarding the nature and scope of the Christian Scriptures and its teaching. Paul declared,

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

II Timothy 3:16

In this post I want to give a brief analysis of the words in this most familiar passage.

πᾶσα – Translated “all, each, or every.” We see here that the KJB translates it “all” and we here at believe rightfully so. Paul’s emphasis is on the collective nature of the text rather than the distributive [i.e., each or every]. Central to this conclusion is the context and particularly the prior verse. Paul emphasizes the fact that Timothy has known the ἱερὰ γράμματα [holy writings] since he was a child. “Holy writings” is a technical term used through out the Scripture pointing not to the Septuagint/LXX but the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus when we get to verse 16, Paul has in view the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, the canon, rather than isolated aggregates.

γραφὴ – Carrying on from verse 15, Paul declares that all such γραφὴ [writings] fall under the same category. The emphasis here of course is on the mode of revelation – writing. Paul is saying that these particular written words are of a certain quality. They are a kind unto themselves, sui generis, if you will. And what is that quality which they all possess?

θεόπνευστος – Literally translated, God-breathed or God-spirated. All holy writings are breathed out by God. This is that unique quality which the words of Scripture are and that no other words possess. These written words are God’s words thus having God as their author. These words were not mediated which means the authority behind these words is the very authority of God Himself. What is more, seeing they are God’s words, they are by definition spiritually discerned because they came from God who is a spirit. God is the immediate, ontological, and epistemological source for these particular words.

καὶ – Having God as their author, these words carry the power and authority of God Himself. Thus it is necessary that an emphasis fall to καὶ [and]. “And” can be taken here as coordinating or correlative. But Paul is not merely making a correlation between God’s words and their profitability. No, his emphasis bears more on the idea of result. Thus, we understand, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable,” as “Because the scriptures are inspired they are profitable.” As such, something of the reverse is also true. If the words under examination are not inspired then they are not profitable in the sui generis way Paul depicts here in II Timothy. What then is the nature of this profitability?

διδασκαλίαν, ἐλεγμόν, ἐπανόρθωσιν, παιδείαν – Translated respectively, doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction. There is much that can be said here but I would like to leave you with this. The profitability of Scripture which derives from its Author is not only the means of faith and salvation. Certainly, we would contain such cardinal doctrines within the scope of profitability. The litmus test for whether a copy of Scripture is indeed the Scripture is not whether or not you can receive Christ as Savior through its teaching. No, the scope of Scriptural profitability reaches far beyond that into the life of sanctification which touches the whole of Christian living throughout the whole of a Christian’s life. As the Scriptures teach, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” [John 17:17]. So do you believe your Bible contains truth or is it truth? And if it is truth like that depicted can it have errors or corruptions? And if does have errors or corruptions, can those be profitable in the same way as God’s word are profitable?

Authoritas Divina Duplex

twofold divine authority;

a distinction between (1) the authoritas rerum, or authority of the things of Scripture, the substantia doctrinae (substance of doctrine); and (2) the authroitas verborum, or authority of the words of Scripture arising from the accidens scriptionis, the accident of writing.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Term: authoritas divina duplex.

Muller here states, and we here at are in agreement, that there are two kinds of authority associated with Scripture: that of the substance of Scripture and that of the form of Scripture. That is, both the meaning of the word and the very shape of the word [i.e., jots and tittles] bear out the authority of the Author. Muller writes concerning “authority,”

“authoritas: authority, originality, genuineness;

the power, dignity or influence of a work that derives from its author, or auctor.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Term: authoritas .

For the Protestant Scholastics then, both the substance [i.e., meaning] of the words as well as the accidents [i.e., shape] of the word are original, genuine, and authoritative. In common twenty-first century parlance both the meaning and the shape of the original languages are original, genuine, and authoritative. What then of translations – Russian, Chinese, Urdu, English etc.? Muller concludes,

“The authority of the substantia, or res, is a formal, inward authority that belongs both to the text of Scripture in the original languages and to the accurate translations of scripture. The authoritas verborum is an external and accidental authority that belongs only to the text in the original languages and is a property or accident lost in translation. Thus the infallibilitas of the originals is both quoad verbum and quoad res, where as the infallibilitas of the translations in only quoad res.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Term: authoritas divina duplex.

Muller changes up the terminology here a bit but the sum of it is that the original text [i.e., the copy of the Hebrew and Greek held to be Holy Scripture], is infallible and authoritative both in the meaning of the words and in the shape of the words. A translation on the other hand, being of a different language and therefore having different shaped words, is not infallible and authoritative in the shape of the words. Still, said translation is infallible and authoritative as to substance or res. So while “word” and “λόγος” do not share the same accidents/shape they do share in the same substance/res/meaning.

The argument for authoritas divina duplex is one reason why we here at argue for both the infallibility and authority of the original as well as a translation, the King James Bible.

Was a Verbal Revelation Necessary? We Affirm.

Continuing our Bibliology Primer we turn to Francis Turretin’s first question, “Was a verbal revelation necessary?” At this point the discussion is only about words whether spoken or written and their necessity. Why must revelation be a revelation of words? Turretin affirms this necessity under two heads: 1.) the goodness of God and 2.) the appetites of man. The first head contains three causal lines: 1.) the perfect goodness of God, 2.) the blindness and wretchedness of man, and 3.) right reason. Concerning the first he writes,

“For when he made man for himself…he was without doubt unwilling that he should be ignorant on the subject [i.e., theology] and has declared to him by the word, happiness itself and the way to reach it.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, III. 55.

Of the second he writes of mankind that

“he is so blind and depraved, that he can neither become acquainted with any truth, nor perform any good thing unless God leads the way (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 5:8)”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, III. 55.

Regarding the third, right reason, it

“teaches that God can be savingly known and worshipped only by his light, just as the sun makes itself known to us only by its own light (Ps. 36:9)”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, III. 55.

Turning then to the second head, not only is the necessity of verbal revelation proven through the goodness of God, plight of men, and good reason it is also proven by the twofold appetite of man himself. All men desire in some way, often in a twisted and malformed way, two things: truth and immortality. Interestingly, Immanuel Kant touches on this very same idea as he argues for morality and particularly the need for God and immortality to lead a truly complete moral life. He concludes,

“God and a future life are two hypothesis which, according to the principles of pure reason, are inseparable from the obligation which this reason imposes upon us.”

Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, Transcendental Doctrine of Method, Chap. 2, Sec. 2. GBWW, 238.

Turning back to Turretin, he writes of truth and immortality, that former is

“for knowing the truth, the other for enjoying the highest good that the intellect may be completed by the contemplation of truth and the will by the fruition of good in which a happy life consists.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, IV. 56

Thus he concludes,

“Therefore the higher school of grace was necessary in which God might teach us by word the true religion, by instructing us in his knowledge and worship and by raising us in communion with himself to the enjoyment of eternal salvation – where neither philosophy, nor reason, could ever rise.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, IV. 56.

In sum, for Turretin, the acquisition of truth, theology, and a method of right worship is necessarily dependent upon divinely revealed words, spoken or written. Furthermore, man has an innate appetite for truth and eternal life, the latter of which is also necessarily dependent upon divine verbal revelation. Put another way, in order for the human subject to acquire truth and eternal life that same subject must necessarily encounter divine verbal revelation. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Our next instalment in this series takes Turretin’s question a step further and asks, “Was it necessary for the word of God to be committed to writing?” See you then.

The Reformed Principia Theologiae

Welcome to the Brickyard. This is a place to find quotes for use in your own research. The bricks are free but the building is up to you. The following quotes are from Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena to Theology. We turn specifically to the doctrinal formulation of the “Reformed Principia Theologiae.”

Muller describes the Principia Theologiae as

“the sine qua non, the necessary and irreducible ground of theology, apart from which not even the fundamental articles of the faith could be set forth and no articles of theology, fundamental or derivative, could be correctly stated.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 430-431.

The “necessary and irreducible ground” of theology, the faith, and Christian fundamentals is known as the principia or first principles. Muller explains,

“From Aristotle and more recent commentators, Iaullus and Zabarella, Lubbertus draws the argument that principia are necessary and immutably true and must be known per se as both immediate and indemonstrable.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 431.

Muller goes on,

“Furthermore, the principia of any given discipline must be identified as a principium essendi, literally a “principle of being” or essential foundation – and a principium cognoscendi, a “principle of knowing” or cognitive foundation. The former is necessary for the existence of the discipline, the latter for knowledge of it.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 431.

So what are the principia of the discipline we call theology? Muller insists that

“By defining both Scripture and God as principal in the strictest sense – namely as true, immediate, necessary, and knowable or, alternatively, as both self-evident and indemonstrable – the early orthodox asserted the priority of Scripture over tradition and reason and gave conceptual status to the notion of its self=authenticating character in response to both Roman polemicists and philosophical skeptics of the era.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 432.

Conclusion? The historically Reformed position is that both Scripture and God are principium. As such, each is true, immediate, necessary, knowable, self-evident, and indemonstrable in Christian apologetic and polemic endeavors. If true, then the Bible cannot be mostly true. If immediate, then knowledge of the Bible is not mediated by some more basic authority. If necessary, then true Christian theology cannot be had apart from the Bible. If knowable, then Scripture cannot be the ward of Christian academia. If self-evident, then textual criticism cannot be the primary means of knowing what is Scripture and what is not. If indemonstrable, an “embarrassment of riches” cannot be the means whereby Christians “prove” the Scripture to be what it says it is.

A Bibliology Primer and the Institutes of Elenctic Theology

This is the first of a new series entitled, A Bibliology Primer drawn Principally form Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, or a Primer on Bibliology for short. Richard Muller writes of the term “elenctic,”

“elenchticus, -a, -um (adj.): elenctic(al), for the purpose of confutation or logical refutation;

a descriptive adjective frequently used by Protestant scholastics with reference to the polemical section of their dogmatic systems. Whereas polemical indicates simply attack, elenctic(al) implies refutation leading toward positive statement.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally From Protestant Scholastics, Term: elenchticus.

As we make our way through this primer it is important to know that material under examination happens in a dogmatic context with the aim to confute [i.e., prove to be wrong] or refute [i.e., disprove] certain assertions under the give topic. The Protestants at this time were in a kind of intellectual combat over the soul of the believing community. This of course gives rise to tacitly militant language in terms like apologetic, polemic, and elenctic.

Regarding Bibliology, Turretin’s offering was written at a time when the Protestant orthodox were under political and theological assault, thus the observations he makes took place in an adversarial context. Rome had her Bible and the Protestants had theirs. Note, there was a time when both sides held to a standard sacred text – one Latin, and the other Greek and Hebrew. We here at would like to see similar circumstance come about in the 21st century church.

On final note regarding Turretin’s Institutes. He begins his first topic with the existence and necessity of theology as a discipline and system of study. His second topic is not God, or sin , or the church. His second topic is Scripture. We see this in the Westminster Confession and its cousin, the London Baptist Confession. Again, for Turretin he saw fit first to start with Scripture, our epistemological foundation for Christian belief, rather than with God, our ontological foundation for Christian belief. Certainly this ordering is not the same with all Protestant scholastics, but in this case as in many others, it is.

Weekly Question – God’s Command

God spoke commands, thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. But isn’t it the case that the very speaking of God is also a kind of implicit command? Is there any sense in which when God speaks the human creature may ignore that speech? Is there any speech of God which does not carry this implicit command to “Give ear to what God has said”? If so, are we not commanded to hear every word? If we are commanded to hear every word but we do not have every word then God holds us to a command that we cannot fulfill even in the Spirit.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

One Lord. One Faith. One Bible?

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6

John Calvin writes in his commentary on the above passage from Ephesians, “Some consider the unity of the Spirit to mean that spiritual unity which is produced in us by the Spirit of God. There can be no doubt that He alone makes us “of one accord, of one mind,” (Philippians 2:2,) and thus makes us one; but I think it more natural to understand the words as denoting harmony of views.”

It seems fair that we have a harmony of view regarding Christ as Head, the Christian calling, Christ as Lord, and God as Father. The Cross is exclusive in its efficacious work. There is only one way to salvation. There is only one true faith.

Calvin goes on to write regarding verse 4 “that we are subject to a law which no more permits the children of God to differ among themselves than the kingdom of heaven to be divided.” And what exactly does this look like? Recall the words of Jesus as he taught the disciples to pray, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The unity on earth is to mirror the unity in heaven and in one particular way. We must be united in the will of God and that it be done.

For the cessationist, what is the revealed will of God on earth in the present church age? The word of God, Scripture, is that revealed will. In commenting on verse 5, Calvin observes that “Christ cannot be divided. Faith cannot be rent. There are not various baptisms, but one which is common to all. God cannot cease to be one, and unchangeable.” We are no more permitted to differ over what words are God’s words than the kingdom of heaven is to differ over which words are God’s words.

Where do we learn that there is one Lord, Christ? The Bible. Where do we learn that there is one faith? The Bible. Where do we receive faith? By hearing the Bible. Where do we learn that there is one God? The Bible. Where do we learn this one God is Father to the Christian? The Bible. Where do we learn of the one Holy Spirit? The Bible. Where do we learn from this one Holy Spirit? The Bible. Yet the epistemological source, the ground and foundation of where we learn all these “ones” is not one. The English-speaking believing community does not have one God’s word from the one Spirit to learn of the one God, the one Spirit, the one faith, the one Lord.

We here at concur with Calvin in confessing that “Christ cannot be divided. Faith cannot be rent. There are not various baptisms, but one which is common to all. God cannot cease to be one, and unchangeable.” And as such, There cannot be various God’s words, but one which is common to all. God’s word cannot cease to be one, and unchangeable.


copies of an original;

specifically, the scribal copies of the original autographa (q.v.) of Scripture.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Term: apographa.

The term apographa deserves close attention in that the documents were not merely understood to be copies of copies of copies, but for the Protestant Scholastics and for us here at the apographa is in one sense the copies of the original autographa. Muller observes under the same entry,

“The Protestant scholastics distinguished between the absolute infallibility of the original copies of the biblical books and the textual imperfection of the apographa.”

Muller, Dictionary, apographa.

For the Protestant scholastics there were two kinds of “copies.” First, there were the copies which made up the sacred text of God’s people from which the Protestant scholastics did battle with Roman Catholic apologists. Second, the apographa as “manuscript tradition” which though essentially correct, did possess imperfections which Protestant scholastics thought easily remedied through “their exegetical method intended, by means of mastery of the languages and the comparative study of the extant texts, to overcome errors caused by transmission.”

“In addition, the Protestant orthodox held, as a matter of doctrinal conviction stated in the locus de Scriptura Sacra of their theological systems, the providential preservation of the text throughout history.”

Muller, Dictionary, apographa.

This “matter of doctrinal conviction” is born out quite clearly in the declaration of the Westminster Confession of Faith 1.8:

“The Old Testament in Hebrew…and the New Testament in Greek…being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.”

Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.8.

In short, first, the historic Protestant orthodox position on this point was to hold that the original text they held to as the sacred text, which was a copy, was equal to the autographa. Second, the textual tradition [i.e. the apographa] did indeed possess corruptions, but these corruptions could be easily overcome through “their exegetical method intended…to overcome errors caused by the transmission of the text.”