Evangelical Protestantism and the Biblical Studies of M.Godet: Part 2

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A very large part of the Bible, even on M. Godet's confession, pretends to give the words of the Lord, “All the writings and some part of the prophetic scriptures, have these words for title: Thus saith the Lord” (p. 42). Is it true or not? If that is true, there is no distinction between the revelation. and the Bible. The Bible is the revelation itself set down in writing. M. Godet says, “The veracious moment of the word of salvation” (p. 46). If it is veracious, we have, in all that it contains, the revelation itself; and that does not only apply to prophecy but to law. It tells us there, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying.” Is it true, or not? The history of the creation, that of Abraham, &c., are they a collection of Elohistic or Jehovistic legend; or is it a written revelation? Man should live by every word that proceeds out of the month of God. Where find these words if the account rendered and the revelation are not identical—if the Bible does not give us words from the mouth of God, that is, say, the revelation?
At the time of the temptation in the desert, all depended upon the fact that the Savior yielded not in that moment. The first Adam had yielded; thank God, the Second could not fail, while all depended upon His standing firm to conquer the strong man. How did He obtain the victory? By citing that which is written. The scripture was sufficient for the Son of God as divine authority, He referred to words which proceeded from the month of God. Scripture cited, one single passage sufficed for Satan, reduced him to silence; absolute testimony of his defeat. The Savior made use only of scripture, although Satan quoted it also—falsely if you will, but in order to cunningly avail himself of the written word of God. The Savior maintained His standing within that divine enclosure of safety, “It is written again.” By those words that proceeded from the mouth of God, the victory on which our salvation depended was won. Is the Savior they possessed a divine and absolute authority—and to Satan also—and that, in such a sort that he dared not reply. Had he done so, he would openly have betrayed himself as the adversary; and to man—to one Man at least—to Christ. Blessed are all they who follow Him.
But I anticipate somewhat. Let us bear in mind that the question concerns the communication from God to man; this we all recognize. In speaking of revelation, M. Godet says (p. 14), “They who receive it receive it not solely for themselves. The work of which it unveils the meaning has the world for its object.” It is clear that revelation was not given to be the property solely of him who received it. It might so happen, and has so happened; but, as a general proposition, revelation is received by an agent to be communicated to others. Revelation was not for the channel to which it was confided, but for the people of God, for the church, and for the sinful world.
We will now return to M. Godet's theory, that also of all who deny the inspiration of the scriptures, who deny it in the full, entire, ordinary, and common acceptation of that word. The Bible IS the word of God. God has revealed to certain chosen instruments His thoughts and His purposes according as it seemed good to Him so to do, and, in thus doing, to use M. Godet's own expression, God had the world as His object. This communication was made from God Himself to the prophets. The communication is divine—partial it may be—but perfect. The communication is from God Himself, the prophet receiving it as given by God. But, although the world be His object—not the prophet—the world receives but a given statement of that revelation.) The prophet, to the best of his ability, communicates to others what he has received. Thais the world, which is the object God had in view, receives revelation only as transmitted with all the imperfections which pertain to the exercise of the human mind, and to human faculties in connection with divine things—to the memory, for instance—in fact to all the weaknesses pertaining to our poor nature. The world possesses but a transmitted statement of the complete, perfect, and divine revelation, supplied by the men who received it; nevertheless revelation was made and communicated, as having the world and its well-being for its object!
Is this a theory that bears the impress of common sense? and what is it as concerns divine goodness? God desired to communicate to the world the mighty efficacy of the truth. He revealed that troth to chosen instruments; but the world, for whom He destined it, and His beloved church, could and can only receive it spoiled and marred by the weaknesses of the channels of communication, for whom personally it was not designed! And this is called rational! Nor is this all. The question becomes yet more Serious, when the New Testament and more especially the Gospels are concerned, those given statements of events in which redemption was at least consummated, even though redemption be but the goal of the education of man. Manifestly this is of more importance than all beside& M. Godet speaks of it thus (p. 43): “The contradictions between the Gospel recitals. But our Gospels, as we have seen, are not revelation. Revelation is the fact related—it is Jesus, His work, His word. Our Evangelists describe that fact to the best of their ability; one or two among them, qualified from baying been eye-witnesses, the others from such information as they were able to obtain.”
But then, as regards the most important point, as regards redemption, there has been no revelation at all, because “revelation is a fact placed between God and His agent” (p. 16), whilst our Evangelists speak merely from their title of being eye-witnesses, or from such information as they were able to obtain. It is a matter of personal memory, and even of secondhand communication, since M. Godet relies on the legends of the primitive church, to which he often refers. Mark, for instance, according to M. Godet, has, at the request of the Roman Christians, given his own reminiscences of the remembrances of Peter Matthew has “edited the discourses,” but another has added the facts that link these discourses together as well as it could be done. Luke, having made use of documents already published, probably made some expeditions into Galilee during Paul's imprisonment at Caesarea, in order to collect together all the possible recollections which the memories of the Galileans could retain; and then from these materials Luke composed a history in the Grecian style, the only one which merited that name. (See “The origin of our four Gospels.” Biblical Studies: second series.) M. Godet also says (“M. Colani,” p. 38), “I agree to it without any difficulty. Many of M. Colani's objections appear to me weighty, and some decisive, against a certain manner of considering the Bible, which might confound it with revelation.” Thus we are left without any revelation, for we have but the Bible; and that, with such contradictions in its most important portion as to falsify the given statement, as to render it not from God but to base it upon the memories of Peter, of Mark, or of the Galileans, and thus raise positive obstacles and hindrances to one's considering that which we have in the New Testament to be a revelation from God! And here we fall lower than ever. The greater part of the Old Testament was based upon communications from God to agents. Those communications were revelations. In the New Testament Jesus and His word are the fact, that is, revelation; and all that we get is only a matter of memory, bringing contradictions into the narrations! Our Evangelists describe the fact to the best of their ability. The Christ is a revelation, but, according to M. Godet, we have no revelation of the Christ!
It is important that I should here point out a certain method of presenting inspiration (a method common to M. Godet and to all who oppose inspiration, but which serves to lead the simple astray). He speaks thus (Biblical Studies, p. 48): “To require a Bible dictated word for word from heaven would be requiring a book that would supplant human thought instead of fertilizing it; a bookmaking a passive instrument of man, instead of calling his intelligent and free co-operation into request Would that be more divine?” We must not expect M. Godet to agree with himself. At page 44 we read: “When it is granted to a man to confer directly with Jehovah, two things simultaneously take place in him. Every creature, himself included, disappears into nothingness. God remains before him as the Being who alone is great, alone real.” This has certainly some appearance of “supplanting human thought” —has it not? Now, not being inspired myself, I do not pretend to define inspiration; were I so, I do not imagine it would be possible for me to explain it to one who was not. What I seek is God's thought; I neither seek to “supplant” nor to “fertilize human thought.” But to define inspiration as being “word for word dictated from heaven,” is but a human idea of the subject. When it has been written, “Thus saith the Lord,” or, “The Lord said unto Moses,” either He has said it, or words have been put into the mouth of the Lord, words which are not His own. God Himself makes a distinction in the form, but not in the authority of revelation. (Num. 12:6-86And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. 7My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. 8With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? (Numbers 12:6‑8).) Tongues were spoken which the person who used them could not understand. This was truly “supplanting human thoughts;” but Paul preferred to speak with his understanding. God could fill his heart with glorious and holy thoughts, and so keep him filled with them that nothing should be there, and consequently nothing be expressed, but that which God had placed there. These were the thoughts of God, but through the power of the Spirit became the thoughts, the joy, of a man, creating in him an intelligence, molding his heart and divinely enlightening his conscience. God could in such sort possess Himself of the intelligence, the heart, and the conscience, that nothing could either enter in or flow out but what He had put there. This is also the highest character of inspiration, because all that is revealed belongs to us; whereas the prophets in searching into their own prophecies, found it was not for themselves they ministered those things. Be it as it may, is it not wretched in the extreme to put “a Bible dictated word for word from heaven” in contrast with human thought, instead of seeing the operation of the Spirit of God, and man's mind formed by the communication of purely divine thoughts, they being adapted to man, and also received by him through the work of the Spirit of God?
Let us now examine how the word presents itself to us; for its absolute perfection as a whole, and its intrinsic power cannot be known but by those in whom it operates. In the law it is, as we have seen, “God spake unto Moses.” Is this true or not? If it be true, we have the word of God, and not merely a revelation made to Moses, but the word of God such as Moses received it. Pass on to the Psalms of David. “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said.” (2 Sam. 23:2, 32The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. 3The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. (2 Samuel 23:2‑3).) If the given statement be true, the Psalms of David are the word of God itself; if it be false, there is even no piety in them, for it is not piety but fanaticism to say, “The word of God was upon my tongue,” if it had not been there. Now, the Lord Jesus has on many occasions put His seal to the whole Book of Psalms; the prophets in their turn declare, “Thus saith the Lord.” The word of the Lord was with Jeremiah. This is Zechariah’s appeal to the conscience of the residue of the people who returned from Babylon (Zech. 1:4-64Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord. 5Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? 6But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us. (Zechariah 1:4‑6)): “Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord; your fathers, where are they and the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes which I commanded my servants, the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers?” These words were the words of the Lord, and they were proved to be such. The Lord also, and the apostles, have formally put the seal to that which the prophets have spoken, and mark it well, to that which they had spoken as we have it in the scriptures, and there alone. And mark also this important point—it is not the word in the scriptures, in the Bible, but it is the scriptures themselves as such. It is not simply such and such passage acting effectually upon me (though this may be the case), but it is the authority of Him who speaks by that means. It is not my mind judging the word, it is the word, God by His word acting upon me; it is His authority established over my heart. The Samaritan woman did not say, “What thou sayest is true,” but “I perceive that thou art a prophet.” Thus all that He had said had authority itself as coming from God. It is the operation of the Spirit of God that imparts spiritual intelligence by the conscience, by faith—faith with regard to Him who speaks. God is known as being in it, it is divine intelligence. I do not reason to prove that the sun shines; I do not light a candle to know it: the light acts upon me and lightens me. I not only see the object on which my sight is directed, but I know that the light shines.
Let us now see what the New Testament teaches. What was it caused the Sadducees to err? They knew not the scriptures. What did the Lord quote to enlighten the two disciples of Emmaus? Moses and all the prophets. And what did He quote to the twelve? The law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, that is, the entire scriptures of the Old Testament according to the Jewish division of them, as we possess them now. To the Lord they were authority. He founds His teaching upon them. Then He opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures (Luke 24), which would have been perfectly incredible and unintelligible had the scriptures not been the word of God. Would God give by divine power a special understanding to understand a human given statement, which was as correct as its author could possibly render it from such information as he had been able to obtain? or is there a divine revelation for the Jew, and no divine revelation for the Christian in respect of the accomplishment of the truth as it is in Christ? Peter said (Acts 18),” God hath thus fulfilled what he had announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets.” The Lord declared (John 10), “The scripture cannot be broken.” These, we are told, were Jewish prejudices. Did the Lord then confirm them in their Jewish prejudices in order to deceive them? It is impossible to deny that the Lord and His apostles quote, contemplate, and in every manner encourage no to contemplate the scriptures as being altogether the word of God, and invested with His authority. They may present us the history and the words; of wicked men, even of Satan himself, but it is God who gives us them, so that we know that which is according to God. So much is this the case that Paul fears not to say, “The scripture, seeing that God would justify the nations on the principle of faith, announced beforehand the glad tidings to Abraham.” The scripture to him is so thoroughly the word of God, that he personifies it, as though God Himself spoke; such in fact it was, by His Spirit. It is specially and expressly not a question of what has been revealed to the prophet, but of that which has been revealed by the prophet.1
The scriptures are in question. There may have been many communications we do not possess, as having been given only for some special occasions. That which concerns the people of God for every age is contained in the scriptures, forming a whole. “No prophecy [says Peter] of scripture is had from its own particular interpretation for prophecy was not ever uttered by [the] will of man, but holy men of God spake under the influence of [the] Holy Ghost.” When the professing church bears the practical character of paganism, “having a form of piety, but denying the power of it,” to what does the apostle refer us? To the holy scripture saying, “Every scripture is divinely inspired that the man of God may be complete.” Divine inspiration characterized that which has the right to be called “scripture” in its ordinary sense. That which Timothy was acquainted with was doubtless the Old Testament. If I call the New Testament “scripture” the New is inspired; if not, it has no title to the name of “scripture.” Peter also, speaking of Paul's epistles, says that “the untaught and ill-established wrest [them] as also the other scriptures.” Paul, speaking in general of the writings addressed by the apostles to the Gentiles, calls them “prophetic scriptures,” for such is the true sense of Rom. 16; 7. I know not if M. Godet would exclude the most precious portion (if one may venture to make a distinction in a whole, every detail of which is perfect in its place) of all the divine history, of the life, sufferings, and death of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, of Him whom no human mind could portray, of Him of whom an infidel has said that it would have been as difficult to have invented as to have been Him. God has taken care, I venture to say, that He who was to reveal Him upon the earth for man's welfare and His own glory should not be falsely described, and thus could not be falsely represented before the world. He has taken care that, where alone it can be learned what God is, there should be no room for that which could have been unworthy of Him. He has taken care that that which was divinely lovely, His own Son, should be divinely and perfectly presented as He was. And who was able for this but God Himself? He was man, and, blessed be His name, He made use of man for it. He was God, and God formed men that they might present God manifest in a man who was the perfect man before God. He who is taught of God will discern God in every detail of the blessed walk of the Lord and of His expiatory death in this world.
M. Godet relates several legends on this subject, especially those of Papias, an infirm old man according to Eusebius who was a great lover of such histories. He quotes other Fathers of the church who themselves relate the legends that were current in the world one hundred or one hundred and fifty years after Christ. He quotes men who said that the church of Rome was founded by the labors of Peter and of Paul, for which M. Godet finds excuses, but which we know to be false.
He who has chiefly preserved the most ancient of these legends tells us that the church of Corinth was also founded by the two apostles. I notice this to show how little dependence can be placed on these men. I attach no importance to their legends: they may be true, or they may be false; one of them certainly is false—that which tells us that Luke edited his Gospel from what Paul had told him, for Paul did not know the Lord down here. The legends also state that Mark edited his Gospel without order, whilst in the recital of the Lord's labors in Galilee Mark presents them in order, which is also the case in Luke's Gospel. Matthew relates the whole in a single verse; then he edits his Gospel according to the subjects, not merely the discourses, but by grasping the chief points of the manifestation of Emmanuel, of the nature of the kingdom of heaven, and of that which, historically, was to replace on earth the rejected Lord.
(To be continued.)