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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pieper: Objections to Inspiration (Part 1) – Variant Readings

I am interrupting the series (Table of Contents here) on Luther's Chronikon and the subsequent review of the modern scholar James Barr.  The reason I am doing this is because, after reviewing Barr's essays on biblical chronology, I have been constantly challenged in my Christian faith.  Professor Barr offers several reasons to question the credibility of the Bible with it's "legends", "errors"... with his "historical criticism" and "textual criticism" of the Bible.

But Franz Pieper long ago addressed these challenges by modern scholars against Holy Scripture.  I just now am refreshed by Pieper's wonderful defense of the Bible and the Doctrine of Inspiration.  Here is what he wrote in 1924 in his Christian Dogmatics, volume 1, pages 232-233:
Objections to the Doctrine of Inspiration
    The objections raised against the inspiration of Holy Scripture constitute an exceedingly sad chapter. They are as harmful as the objections voiced against the satisfactio vicaria of Christ.  Whoever denies the substitutional satisfaction of Christ denies the very essence of the Christian faith, because only the reliance on Christ's vicarious satisfaction (1 Cor. 2:2; 15:1-3; John 1:29) is the Christian faith.  And whoever denies the inspiration of Scripture, i.e., denies that the Word of the Apostles and Prophets is God's own infallible Word, destroys, as far as lies in his power, the foundation of the Christian Church, because, according to Eph. 2:20, the Christian Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.  Nor dare we forget that everyone who denies the inspiration of Scripture eo ipso becomes a critic of Scripture and as a critic of Scripture -- which as God's Word is not to be criticized but believed - is subject to the divine judgment described in Matt. 11:25.  None of us, even though he were a doctor in all four of the learned professions, can deny the inspiration of Holy Scripture without suffering an impairment of his natural mental powers.  The arguments advanced against the inspiration of Scripture are below the level of the natural powers of mind which mankind still possesses since the Fall. 
Hmmm... Pieper puts all would-be scholars who deny the inspiration of Holy Scripture as using powers
"below the level of the natural powers of mind which mankind still possesses since the Fall".  
There are a lot of low-level powers being used by so-called "scholars" today.  You will find many of these as general editors, volume editors, and even translators in the American Edition of Luther's Works.

Pieper hammers home the scriptural doctrine here.  This is truly the spiritual strength of the old (German) Missouri Synod which rested squarely on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.

How did Pieper answer the objections to the doctrine that the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired?  In his Christian Dogmatics, volume 1, pages 232-265, Pieper devoted 33 pages covering these objections (like those of Professor Barr) in a way that leaves a Christian praising God for His wonderful Word... and sticking to his Bible.  This section alone is worth the price of the whole 4-volume set of Christian Dogmatics.  I will pass over for now the first two objections that Pieper answers in his book:
  1. Different style in the various books in the Scripture (page 233)
  2. The appeal of the holy writers to their historical research has been advanced against the inspiration of the Bible. (page 236)
Here are the main objections that James Barr uses and Pieper's refutation.  The first is used by Barr when he speaks of the Septuagint (Greek) and the Samaritan text as various readings of the Old Testament:
3. The variant readings (variae lectiones) found in the copies of the originals are said to disprove the doctrine of inspiration. Variant readings in the copies do exist. But, first of all, let us bear in mind that it is not fair to argue from the variant readings in the copies against the inspiration of the originals. We have never held that the copyists of the holy writings were inspired. Spelling mistakes or slips or attempted corrections in the copies have absolutely nothing to do with the inspiration of the originals....
     But now the objection to the inspiration of Scripture assumes another form, namely, that an inspired Scripture becomes useless and should no longer be urged, since the presence of variant readings makes it, after all, uncertain which is the original Word of God. The critics make much of this objection. Theodor Kaftan claims ...: "Every theologian knows that there is no authentic text," "that the number of variant readings is legion," and "that it must give the verbal inspirationist quite a jolt when he realizes that no one, not even he himself, is able to tell which text is the one that is verbally inspired."  The exact opposite is true!  In spite of the variants in the copies of the Bible we have a reliable Bible text. Referring to this reliable Bible text, Luther uttered the words : "The Word they still shall let remain." We have two ways of knowing that in the copies the Word of the Apostles or, what is identical with it, the Word of Christ, has been preserved for us.
     a. We know we have this Word a priori, that is, prior to any human investigation, on the basis of the divine promise. When our Savior says in His high-priestly prayer (John 17:20) that all those who will come to faith to the end of time will come to faith through the Word of the Apostles, He therewith promises us that the Word of the Apostles will be present in the Church to the Last Day. Again, when Christ admonishes all believers to continue in His Word (John 8:31-32: "If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth"), He guarantees that His Word will be present for us to continue in it. If there are such as do not recognize the Word of Christ which they have as Christ's Word, such failure is certainly due to their blindness, that, seeing, they do not see and, hearing, they do not hear, because they do not understand. (Matt. 13:13 ff.) Again, when Christ instructs not only the Apostles, but His Church (Matt. 28:20) to teach all nations all things whatsoever He has commanded them, He gives the Church the guarantee that His doctrine in all its parts will be clearly and surely known to it to the end of time. Christ also comes to the defense of the text of the old Testament. When Christ says in particular of the entire Scriptures of the Old Testament that they cannot be broken (John 10:35), He is certainly affirming that the text of the old Testament is reliable. Similarly He states (Luke 16:29): "They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them."  Likewise in His temptation (Matthew 4) [Matt. 4:4, 4:6-7, 4:10] Christ operates with the γέγραπται as with an immovable certain text.  We do not read that the devil brought up the matter of "variant readings." So we know a priori, before any investigation, from the promise and the testimony of Christ, that in the Scriptures now at the disposal of the Church we have a reliable text, or, in other words, the authentic doctrine of the Apostles and Prophets, that is, of God, in spite of the variae lectiones in the copies.
     b. We reach the same result also a posteriori, on the basis of scientific investigation. Human scientific investigation establishes the fact that not a single Christian doctrine has been rendered doubtful in any point by the "legion" of variant readings. (pages 237-239)
Dear Christian reader, do you want to know how Luther would answer all these modern theologians and scholars like James Barr on the doctrine of Inspiration?  Then read Franz Pieper.  Then trust your Bible.

In Part 2 of this series, I will address another objection that Barr uses – alleged contradictions and errors in Scripture.

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