Friday, May 26, 2017

On the Vulgate

Peter Cousturier [Peter Sutor] said:

... if in one point the Vulgate were in error the entire authority of Holy Scripture would collapse, love and faith would be extinguished, heresies and schism would abound, blasphemy would be committed against the Holy Spirit, the authority of the theologians would be shaken, and indeed the catholic Church would collapse from the foundation.

Quoted in Jenkins and Preston, Biblical Scholarship and the Church: A Sixteenth-Century Crisis of Authority (Ashgate, 2007) p27 from Bainton (1972) pp167-8

You will be pleased to know this is of course not true, by the way!

A worthwhile project?

Search The Scriptures:

William Whitaker’s, Disputation on Holy Scripture

Anglican Evangelical The Revd Canon Chancellor Prebendary Dr William Whitaker (1548–1595), Regius Professor of Divinity and Master of St John's College, Cambridge, was a leading theologian. He showed his ability by translating The Book of Common Prayer into Greek. Whitaker’s work was discussed on seven occasions at the Westminster Assembly[1]. Though he missed out on a bishopric, The Dictionary of National Biography says: “No English divine of the sixteenth century surpassed Whitaker in the estimation of his contemporaries. Churton justly styles him 'the pride and ornament of Cambridge.'”[2]

William Whitaker’s A Disputation on Holy Scripture Against the Papists, Especially Bellarmine and Stapleton[3] is a classic of its kind, which is readily and economically available in English. It is framed as an exposition of Christ’s prophetic office from John 5:39, which Whitaker takes as a command to search the Scriptures[4]. On page 704, Whitaker will say: “we have come to the close of our controversy, and suppose that, in what hath been said, we have sufficiently explained that sentence of scripture which we laid down at the commencement as our text”. It is not likely that he has left the average reader wanting more.

I do not claim it should be your go to book on the doctrine of Scripture[5]. In my view, Warfield and others have improved on the Reformed doctrine of Scripture they received from the tradition without fundamentally departing from it[6].

Whitaker’s Disputation is very much of its time in both content and style. The structure sometimes leads to unnecessary repetition and makes things hard to find as Whitaker divides up refuting his opponents’ views and stating his positive case, and so on. It is not exactly encouraging when the translator (in his preface) feels the need to warn the reader about the author's tedious prolixity! Perhaps I might give a flavour of something of the style by this quotation from p348, Question 3, Argument 15: "As to [my opponent Stapleton's] first equivocation, I return a fourfold answer."  

But I think the treatise is of more than historical interest and possibly worth persevering with. It contains much that is interesting[7] and useful. It would have been of most benefit to the openminded late 16th Century Papist, or an evangelical having to do with one, but a 21st Century evangelical could no doubt profit from wrestling with it. You will have to search for the gems. Most of us are probably already persuaded, for example, that the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts are preferable to the Latin Vulgate and will not need 100 pages of demonstration of the fact[8]. Here I have attempted to extract, organise and summarise the most useful and interesting bits of its 700+ pages (where possible in his own words) for today’s evangelical, offering some comment and criticism in places. In particular, Whitaker gives further explication and argumentation for a Reformed understanding of Scripture such as that found in the Westminster Standards, particularly against what he would call Roman errors. He makes considerable, careful and thorough use of a wide range of Biblical texts and is also a useful source for Patristic quotations which he thought supported his case, or at least, did not carry the day for his opponents.

[1] Chad Van Dixhoorn (ed.), The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652 (Oxford University Press, 2012) Vol 2: 120 n, 227, 273f, 613
Vol 3: 312, 317, 320f
[2] Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61 Whitaker, William (1548-1595) by James Bass Mullinger This version is in the public domain and is available at:,_William_(1548-1595)_(DNB00)
[3] (Latin original 1588; The Parker Society Edition, Translated and Edited by William Fitzgerlad, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, MDCCCXLIX = 1849) Forgotten Books Reprinting, London, 2015. Amongst Whitaker’s other works it is relevant to note here De Authoritate Scripture written in reply to Stapleton (1594)
[4] It is debatable whether the text should be read as an imperative or an indicative.
[5] This should probably be Tim Ward’s Words of Life
[6] I attempted to summarise Warfield’s doctrine of Scripture in ‘What the Bible Says, God Says:  B. B. Warfield’s Doctrine of Scripture’ Ecclesia Reformanda 1.2 (2009): 183-210 available at
[7] For example, Whitaker notes that a number of the church fathers said that there are 22 Old Testament books, corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, pp57-60; 64-65. p112). He also thinks that Hebrew is the most ancient of all languages having been spoken by all those who lived before Babel citing Augustine City of God Lib. Xvi. c. 11. Also Jerome on Zephaniah 3, also Epistle 142. He suggests that 2 Peter 3:15 ("our brother Paul has written to you") might require us to think that Paul wrote Hebrews, as 1 Peter 1 and 2 (see 2 Peter 3:1) seem to be written to Hebrews. He adds: "This, however, I leave to the judgement of the reader, without determining anything absolutely one way or another." (p107)
[8] The Council of Trent makes this pretty extraordinary claim for the Latin Vulgate: "Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,--considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,--ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever." (Session 4) As Tony Lane points out, Pope Pius XII's Divino afflante Spiritu (1943) talks of the duty of exegetes to make use of the Hebrew and Greek: "The original text... having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern" (section 16). It is said that Trent's declarations about the Vulgate apply "only to the Latin Church and to the public use of the same Scriptures." Lane summarises: "The Vulgate is "free from any error whatsoever in matters of faith and morals" and so can be safely used for teaching and preaching. But when it comes to establishing the correct text of Scripture it is the original Hebrew and Greek that is normative." ('Roman Catholic Views of Biblical Authority from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present' in Carson, The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, p299)
By the time of Vatican II's Dei verbum (1965) "the Vulgate is listed as one of a number of ancient translations to be held in honor. Vernacular translations should be made from the original texts." (Lane, p311)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Where are we in the Psalms?

Psalms 9 and 10 arguably talk about the weak and poor suffering at the hands of the strong and rich.

Goldingay comments that "Most readers of this commentary therefore have to see themselves as the people who are being prayed against." (p184)

One can see where he gets this from, but to my mind it is absurd. What is fundamental to my identity? Not how rich or powerful I am, but whether or not I am humbly trusting in Yahweh. That this the basic dividing line in the Psalm and it tells you whether you can pray this prayer or cop it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reformed precedent for pretty wholescale cut and paste

I have been reading some Reformed writers on the doctrine of Scripture. I am not sure they would pass a modern plagiarism enquiry.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Some reasons to believe the Bible

Turretin lists the following marks of divinity of the Scriptures:


(1) antiquity

(2) duration and wonderful preservation

(3) with regard to its instruments and amanuenses, the human authors, their sincerity and candor

(4) its adjuncts, the number, constancy and condition of the martyrs who sealed it with their blood (p63). And the many miracles God worked to induce belief in the divinity of the Bible. (p63). The consent of all people in receiving these books


(1) the matter – wonderfully sublime mysteries e.g. Trinity, Incarnation; the purity of its precepts; predictive prophecy fulfilled

(2) style – majesty, simplicity, boldness etc.

(3) form – divine agreement and entire harmony between books, writers etc.

(4) the end – the glory of God and the salvation and holiness of people

(5) its effects – light and efficacy in generating faith and piety, triumphing over the kingdom of Satan

(IET, vol 1, pp63-64)

Atheist Christians

It is surprising that Turretin should speak of such, isn't it? But he does:

"Yet even among Christians of this age, there are too many atheists and libertines who endeavour in every way to weaken this most sacred truth [the inspiration of Scripture]." (IET, vol 1, p62)

Word - substance & accidents

Both my regular readers will know that I am interested in the Scripture and the Supper as models for one another.

Turretin uses the categories of substance and accidents from Aristotle familiar from the doctrine of transubstantiation to speak of the Word of God (substance) in its forms (accidents), written and unwritten. (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, p58)

Bavinck on the sufficiency of Scripture

“This attribute [of the perfection or sufficiency] of Holy Scripture also must be correctly understood. It does not mean that all that has been said or written by the prophets, by Christ, and the apostles is included in Scripture. Many prophetic and apostolic writings have been lost…. [list of citations] …. [Jesus and the apostles said many more things] … Nor does this attribute imply that Scripture contains all the practices, ceremonies, rules, and regulations that the church needs for its organization but only that it completely contains “the articles of faith” (articuli fidei), “the matters necessary to salvation. Neither does this attribute of Scripture mean that these articles of faith are literally and in so many words contained in it. Rather, it only [claims that], either explicitly or implicitly, they are so included that they can be derived from it solely by comparative study and reflection, without the help of another source.” (p488)

“this perfection of Holy Scripture must not be interpreted to mean that Scripture was always the same in degree of its perfection (quod gradum) with respect to its length.” (p488) In each period God’s word was sufficient for the time (p488)

Scripture “the total and sufficient rule of faith and morals” (p488) No other principle of knowledge

“the sufficiency of Holy Scripture results from the nature of the NT dipensation. Christ became flesh and completed all his work. He is the last and supreme revelation of God, who declared to us the Father (John 1:18; 17:4, 6). By him God has spoken in the last days (Heb. 1:1-2). He is the supreme and only prophet.” (p490)

“the idea that some writings were lost and the issue of whether they were inspired or not are not at all the point. The question is only whether the present Bible contains everything we need to know for our salvation and not whether it contains everything the prophets and apostles ever wrote and Christ himself said or did. Even if still other prophetic and apostolic writings were found, they could no longer serve as Holy Scripture…. For our salvation Scripture is sufficient; we do not need any more documents, even if they came from Jesus himself. That is the teaching of the Reformation. Quantitatively revelation was much richer and more comprehensive than Scripture has preserved for us; but qualitatively and in terms of substance, Holy Scripture is perfectly adequate for our salvation.” (p491)

“Scripture is sufficient and … the nature of the NT dispensation logically brings with it and demands this sufficiency of Holy Scripture. Christ has fully – personally and orally, or by his Spirit – revealed everything to the apostles. Upon this word we believe in Christ and have fellowship with God (John 17:20; 1 John 1:3). The Holy Spirit no longer reveals any new doctrines but takes everything from Christ (John 16:14). In Christ God’s revelation has been completed. In the same way the message of salvation is completely contained in Scripture. It constitutes a single whole; it itself conveys the impression of an organism that has reached its full growth. It ends where it begins. It is a circle that returns into itself. It begins with the creation of heaven and earth and ends with the recreation of heaven and earth.” (p491)

“The canon of the OT and NT was not closed until all new initiatives of redemptive history were present. In this dispensation the Holy Spirit has no other task than to apply the work of Christ and similarly to explain the word of Christ. To neither does he add anything new.” (p491) – Christ does not need to be supplemented or succeeded (p492)

 “The Roman Catholic doctrine of tradition is the denial of the complete incarnation of God in Christ, of the all-sufficiency of his sacrifice, of the completeness of his Word.” (p492)

“however clear the Bible may be in its doctrine of salvation, and however certainly it is and remains the living voice of God, for a correct understanding it still often requires a wide range of historical, archaeological, and geographical skills and information.” (p493)

“Tradition in its proper sense is the interpretation and application of the eternal truth in the vernacular and life of the present generation. Scripture without such a tradition is impossible.” (p493)

RD vol 1

On appointing a pope

I know next to nothing about Roman Catholic theology on this point, but Bavinck wonders why the pope who is infallible under certain conditions and on certain matters, "is still appointed by fallible people, even though they are cardinals. Who is in a better position than he who is himself infallible to designate his successor? It is therefore very well possible that in the future papal sovereignty will prove to be incompatible with the power of cardinals. In any case Rome has not yet walked the road of the deification of humanity to its conclusion." (RD, vol 1, p492).

The point is perhaps strengthened now that we have seen a pope retire.


Tertulain said: "Our Lord called himself the 'truth' not 'custom' [On The Veiling of Virgins, ch. 1]. Similarly, Cyprian cites against the tradition (to which the bishop of Rome appealed) the texts Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:9; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; and stated: "Custom without truth is the antiquity of error." [Epistle 74]".

Bavinck, RD, vol 1, p483

Monday, May 22, 2017

Psalm 9 jottings

Last week's Psalm of the week was Psalm 9. I actually tried to concentrate on reading, listening to and praying it rather than simply making notes about it!

Psalm 9 / & 10 ? notes

Summary: Praise God for his justice and judgement, for punishing his enemies and delivering his people


Praising / trusting God especially in the face of enemies / injustice

Seeking God’s justice and deliverance

Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

Prayer and Praise for God’s Just Rule of the Nations

A Individual praise (vv1-2)

B Judgement on the wicked (vv3-6)

C Hope in God’s Just Rule (vv7-10)

A’ Communal praise and individual prayer (vv11-14)

B’ Judgement on the wicked (vv15-18)

C’ Hope in God’s Just Rule (vv19-20)

Wilson, NIV Application Commentary

Anticipation of thanksgiving (9:1-3)

Judge of the nations (9:4-8)

A Refuge for the Oppressed (9:9-14)

Judgement on the Nations (9:15-20)

The Arrogant wicked (10:1-11)

Plea for Deliverance (10:12-15)

Yahweh as Eternal King (10:16-18)

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

Wilcock, BST:

1. Something familiar

2. Something new

3. Technique and inspiration

4. Grammar and facts (9:1-12)

5. The other side of the picture (10:1-11)

6. A prayer in the light (9:13-20)

7. A prayer in the dark (10:12-18)

Kidner, Tyndale:

God: Judge and King

9:1-12 Vision after victory

1, 2 – Thankful praise

3-8 – Thine is the kingdom

9-12 – The champion of the weak

13-20 – Vision in adversity

13, 14 – One man’s plight

15-18 – Justice for the world

19, 20 – Put man in his place!

Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life

Throne control

Pray in remembrance

Pray in context

Pray in anticipation

What I have been through (vv1-6)

Praise (vv1-2)

Rehearsal of God’s deliverance (vv3-6)

Where it’s going (vv7-8)

What you can count on (vv9-12)

What the Psalmist learns from it all (vv10b, 12)

Pray for the kingdom (vv19-20)


Acrostic poem together with Psalm 10. Pss 9 & 10 = one Ps in LXX.

See Goldingay p162 for how the acrostic works – v1, v3, v5, v7 etc.

Or Wilcock p42, footnote 73


For the director of music / choirmaster / The leader’s

The girls / Secrets / Eternities / On dying / The son’s

To Muth-labben - “The Death of the Son”


A Psalm of David / David’s

Ps 10 has no title, strengthening the idea that they should be taken together

Ps 10 follows on from Ps 9 beginning with the 12th letter but then drops the alphabetic scheme until vv12-18 where the last 4 letters reappear (Kidner) – Psalm 10 a broken acrostic

Also change of mood in Ps 10v1

Ps 9 and 10 like a diptych

Davis: vv7-8 the key verses of the Psalm

Vv1-12 – all affirmation, the fruit of reflection on a great deliverance

Vv13-20 – prayer, arising out of suffering

9vv1-12 answer to 10vv1-11

9vv13-20 answer to 10vv12-18

9vv1-12 chiastic pattern with the Lord judging at the centre 9:5-8 (Wilcock, p42)

The opening echoes the final v of Ps 7:17

V1b – God’s actions

V2a – God’s person

God’s wonders his great redemptive miracles – 106:7, 22 but also 71:17 and 119:18

What david has seen and what the prophets have foreseen (Wilcock, p42f)

The big picture – the nations mentioned 5 times vv5, 15, 17, 19, 20 – and v8, the world / peoples

V5f = past tenses prophetic perfects anticipating certain future judgement – as good as done

V7f – present or future?

Vv9-10 actually in the form of an exhortation – let the lord be a stronghold, let those who know…

V9 – times of trouble also 10v1

V12 – he who avenges, lit. seeks / requires – denied by the wicked in 10v13b – God won’t call me to account – Gen 9:5; Dt 18:19; 2 Chron 24:22; Ez 33:6

V13 – change of tone

Vv13-20 from personal entreaty to confident prophecy then bold appeal for action

Vv13-14 – the gates of death cannot keep him from the gates of Zion

V14 – lit. daughter Zion not daughter of Zion

V16 = higgayon from haga, 1:2, 2:1 – plot - cf. 19:15; 92:4. Recitation / meditation

Vv19 – 20 – man suggests frailty

V20 – appoint someone fearful mora, object of fear / moreh, teacher

Monday, May 15, 2017

Psalm 8 - some jottings

Psalm 8 notes


Praise the LORD for the majesty of creation and for crowning human beings


Praise of the Lord for creation and his purposes for humanity

When feeling insignificant

Repentance over neglect or misuse of creation or forgetfulness of God

Longing for the new creation and the fulfilment of all things in the Last Adam


O Lord, our LORD, I praise you for the majesty and glory of your name, which is so wonderfully displayed in all you have made.

I praise you for your power and infinity, the scale and intricacy and variety of your creativity.

I acknowledge my finitude, my weakness and mortality.

Thank you that your power is made perfect in weakness, that you delight to use the weak to shame the strong.

I confess to you my sin.

I know that I deserve nothing from you except your judgement.

I marvel that you give human beings a second thought.

Thank you for your care, that you think of me and attend to my prayer.

Thank you that you know me thoroughly and that though you are greater than I can imagine, the details of my life and my sometimes trivial concerns matter to you.

I praise you for your purposes for human beings, for the role and responsibility that you have given to your people.

I’m sorry for times that I have forgotten you or that vocation, when the calling to represent you in the world and to rule the world under you has meant nothing to me.

Forgive me for my rebellion, my self-absorption, my neglect and misuse of creation.

Help me to more fully and truly reflect your image in the world, to live as a faithful steward of your world, seeking to play my part in your great purposes to bring creation from one degree of glory to another.

May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I praise you for the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Last Adam, your image and glory, the Proper Man who was always faithful to you.

Thank you that your glory which was above the heavens came down and tabernacled amongst us and was seen and heard by the witnesses you had chosen.

Thank you that you have placed all things under your perfect Son, for his government of the world, that he is working out all things in conformity to your will.

Thank you that Christ has triumphed, defeating sin and death and Satan and that you are putting all his enemies under his feet. 

Thank you for the prospect of his full and perfect rule.

May more and more people bow the knee to him and serve him with gladness.

Expand my vision of your glory.

Make your name known to all the nations.

May all creation resound with your praises.

O LORD, our Lord, I praise you for the majesty of your name.

Outlines / structure:

Expositor’s Bible:

Goldingay, Baker Commentary

Humanity’s position in creation

Vv1-2 – Praise Yahweh as the powerful, majestic creator

Vv3-4 – wonder whether this God would be involved with mere human beings

Vv5-9 – marvel that Yahweh has bestowed glory and honour on humans by giving them dominion over creation

Wilcock, BST:

The story so far

The joyous slaughter of sacred cows

The first and the last man

Kidner, Tyndale:

Crown of Creation

The praise of his glory (vv1-2)

What is man? (vv3-8)

The praise of his glory (v9)

Tidball, Signposts

The Crown of Creation

V2 – God and human instinct

Vv3-5 – God and human dignity

Vv6-8 – God and human responsibility

Chiastic structure:

Benediction (vv1, 9)

God’s rule v. human rule (vv2-3, 6-8)

Human insignificance v. human significance (vv4, 5)

Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life

Majestic name

The irony of your strength (vv1b-2)

The mystery of your care (vv3-4)

The clarity of your revelation (vv5-8)

The certainty of your plan (v6 – Heb 2:5-9)

Alan Harman, Mentor Commentary

Vv1-2 God’s majesty

Vv3-5 Man’s insignificance

Vv6-8 Man’s role in creation

V9 God’s praise renewed

Allen P. Ross, Kregel Exegetical Library

God’s Condescending to Mankind

I. Introductory refrain: The psalmist extolls the excellency of the nature of the LORD (1a)

II. The Psalmist praises the LORD’s greatness in confounding the enemy with children and his grace in giving human beings dominion over creation (1b-8)

A. It is marvellous that this majestic LORD should use “children” to confound the mighty (1b-2)

1. The majesty of the LORD is displayed in the heavens (1b)

2. The LORD uses the words of children to silence the enemy (2)

B. It is marvellous that this majestic LORD who created the universe should regard humans enough to entrust his dominion to them (3-8)

1. The work of creation is God’s finger work (3)

2. God endowed man with glory and entrusted him with dominion (4-8)

a. It is amazing that God even thinks of a mere mortal (4)

b. It is marvellous that God granted mortals glory and dominion over creation (5-8)

III. Concluding refrain: The psalmist extols the excellency of the nature of the LORD (9)




Gittith – something from Gath, in the SW of Israel – 2 Sam 15:18 – Goliath! – feminine form for a person or thing from Gath – Ibn Ezra links it with Obed-edom the Gittite, a Levitical singer – 1 Chron 13:13-14; 16:4-5 (Goldingay)

Gittith – also Ps 81 & 84 – all joyful songs of thanksgiving

Gittite cf. gat, winepress


Man matters because God matters. Man matters; God matters more. Matter tells us God matters!

The first proper song of praise in the Psalter – form and subject untypical (Goldingay)

The last v of Ps 7 vowed to praise Yahweh. This Psalm fulfils that promise. The suffering and enemies of the previous psalms do not make this Psalm any less true.

Harman: This Psalm is the latter part of Genesis turned into a song

The only praise Psalm wholly addressed to God – no invitation to praise, no reasons for praise in a because clause (Goldingay)

Kidner: “This psalm is an unsurpassed example of what a hymn should be, celebrating as it does the glory and grace of God, rehearsing who He is and what He has done, and relating us and our world to Him; all with a masterly economy of words and in a spirit of mingled joy and awe.” (p65f)

Inclusio - Begins and ends with God’s majestic name – vv1a and 9 – the packaging / wrapping of the Ps, cf. product packaging aiming to create an impression

The Psalm brings to mind God’s surprising ways in the roles he has assigned to the strong and the weak (v2), the spectacular and the obscure (vv3-5), the multitudinous and the few (vv6-8). (Kidner, p66)

The Psalm takes us above the heavens (v1) and back to the very beginning (vv3, 6-8) and the NT points out to the very end (v6). (Kidner)

Wilcock: Remember / be mindful – 6:5

Glory 3:3; 4:2; 7:5

The avenger – 7:3-5

Enemies in all Pss 3-7 and here

Les individualistic than preceding Pss ???, not especially autobiographical – our – though the speaker is an individual “I” (v3) he is representative – the title indicates it is intended to be used in public worship – David speaks for us and wants us to join with him

Cosmic and prophetic scope recall Ps 2

V1 – Lord, sovereign – honorific plural

Our Lord, personal trust and relationship of course crucial – not just Lord in general or in theory or of others

V1 – adder, splendid, majestic, usually with the implication of might / power – 76:4; 93:4; 136:18 – deferent submission

V1 – hod – majesty, awesome power and authority – 1 Chron 29:11; Job 37:22; 39:20; Is 30:30; Hab 3:3

V1 – ardent, intimate, reverent

This great God is our covenant God

The God of Israel the only true God

V1 – tnh (acclaim) – MT tena - The Hebrew constantaly could allow “Thou whose glory is *chanted* above the heavens” – Is 6:3 – natena – he gave / put

God greater than all created reality and in authority over it

Names more than mere labels to the ancient Hebrews – suggest character

V2 – Lit. from the mouth – Jer 36:4, 6, 17, 27

V2 – contrast the threatening enemies and the helpless children – God makes them a strength / stronghold / bulwark / fortress – what seems inconsequential has overwhelmed the mighty (cf. the apparent insignificance of humanity and of Christ)

Davis: praise packs a lethal punch – toddlers wallop God’s enemies!

V2 – the praise of cradle and nursery is acceptable to this great God (Kidner)

Mt 21:16 quotes LXX

Rising discord in v2 – foes, enemy, avenger – cf. the enemies of the previous psalms – they even get a mention in this hymn of praise

V2 – oz – strength / might – implication of praise for God’s overwhelming strength and majesty

Quoted by Jesus in Mt 21:15f – the children shouting his praise

God’s use of the weak to confound the strong – 1 Cor 1:27

V3 – change to “I”

V3 – David the shepherd boy contemplating the night sky? On a clear night, he could see maybe 2000-3000 stars. With a good pair of binoculars, we can see up to 10 000.

If the Milky Way were the size of North America, our solar system would fit in a coffee cup. And the milky way is perhaps one of 100 billion galaxies in the universe. (Davis, p97)

Of all creation, only human beings could ask the question of v4

Vv3-5 – both the smallness and the status of humanity – might seem insignificant, but highly significant in God’s purposes – of all creatures, humanity is both great and small

Almighty God who set the stars in place, also set human beings over the creation

Vv3-5 – contrast the puniness of human beings and the immensity of the cosmos (Tidball)

V4 – enos suggests human frailty – ben adam – the sons / descendants of Adam, adamah, earth or ground

V4 – David’s question, “What is man?” is really a way of saying “What a God!” (Davis)

What other answers do people give to the question “What is man?”

The answer of paganism – fate – man an accident / prisoner / slave of the gods

The answer of nihilism

The answer of humanism

(see Davis p99f)

Scientific materialism – how much of each chemical in man – a wet machine – a sack of stuff

Cf. Lk 12:24 – God even cares for the ravens!

Is 40:26ff; 45:18; 51:16

Ps 144:3f

Job 7:17f quotes v4 rather negatively – Job’s suffering as a loss of glory

Ps 25:6

Ps 90

Care – lit. you attend to – Jer 23:2

V5 slows to a stately emphasis – virtual synonyms: What is man that You should note him / human creature, that you should pay him heed?

V5ff – especially suitable for David the king

V5 – Gen 1:26

MT Elohim - God

LXX takes Elohim in its rarer generic sense to mean supernatural beings, angels – 1 Sam 28:13; Ps 82:1; 6f – Heb 2:7, 9

“Little” (v5) could mean “for a while” in both the Hebrew and the Greek

Human beings were put between the world and God

Human beings little gods (Tidball) – cf. the scientific anthropic principle – humanity at the centre of creation – though overall in content if not exactly in form the Psalm is of course theocentric – humanity is enveloped in God’s praise, established by God, cared for by God, responsible to God etc. Human powers of dominion are to be used for God’s praise. Selfish exploitation or pretended autonomy are disordered.

James 3:7f

Heb 2:6-8

1 Cor 15:27f

Eph 1:19-22

Godlingay: The 2-fold all in vv6-7 corresponds to the 2-fold all in vv1 and 9

V6 – masal, ruler, used of God in 22:28; 66:7; 103:19 and elsewhere

Cf. Is 11

Rm 8:22

Vv6-7 – the prominence of the monosyllable, kol, all, draws attention to the central motif of the Psalm

We don’t see a perfect world functioning well under man’s good rule – human beings have messed up the world – creation is out of sorts – we can’t manage our own lives let alone the whole world!

Cf. X – 1 Cor 15:27; Eph 1:22; Heb 2:6-8

Rev 5:10

V9 – Humanity and its dominion takes second place to God and his – a very strong focus on God despite the attention given to humanity – human beings put in their place, which is under God, in relation to him, faithfully serving and praising him

We can say human being only after we have learnt to say God

Name of the Lord – Ex 33:18f

(Henry Law, Daily Prayer and Praise: The Book of Psalms Arranged for Private and Family Use (Banner of Truth, 2000, orig. pub. 1878)

(Derek Tidball, Signposts: A devotional map of the Psalms (IVP, 2009)

Walter Brueggemann & William H. Bellinger, Jr., Psalms, New Cambridge Bible Commentary (CUP, 2014)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Prayer: A Handy Reminder

If you put your hands together in the traditional praying posture, your fingers might remind you of some things to pray for:

Thumbs: your family and friends and all those closest to your heart
The index / pointing finger: all those who lead and direct others, the clergy, teachers, the media etc.
The tallest finger: those in high places, HM The Queen and all in authority
The next finger is the weakest: all those in special need
The little finger: little old me!

(One thing I learned in church today!)

Friday, May 12, 2017

More Bavinck on Scripture

Some further jottings. Bavinck is especially good in describing and defending what he calls a more organic (historical and psychological) view of full inspiration against some excessively mechanical accounts.

Reformed Dogmatics, volume 1, chapter 13, The Inspiration of Scripture

“From the beginning Holy Scripture was recognised as the Word of God by all Christian churches. There is no dogma about which there is more unity than that of Holy Scripture.” (p402)

In later times, the Jews called the Torah the wisdom, image, daughter of God, the highest good, the way to life (p402)

“If Israel had not sinned, it [the Torah] would have been sufficient.” (p403)

“Nothing in it [the OT] is superfluous: everything has meaning – every letter, every sign, right down to the very form and shape of the word – for everything comes from God.” (p403)

“The church was never without a Bible. It immediately accepted the OT, with its divine authority, from the hands of the apostles. From the beginning, the Christian faith included belief in the divine authority of the OT.” (p403)

“The apologists of the second century compare the authors of Scripture to a cither, lyre, or flute that the divine musician employed as his instrument.” (p404 – with citations)

Dictation (p404)

Jerome: “Each and every speech, all syllables, marks and periods in the divine scriptures are full of meanings and breathe heavenly sacraments.” (p404)

The self-consciousness of the writers in inspiration stressed (p404f) – prior investigation, differences in intellectual development, uses of sources and memory (p405)

Celebration of the physical object of the bible in the middle ages (p407)

Calvin “assumes the presence of an error in Matthew 22:9 and 23:25 but not in the autographa.” (p415) [??? What error did he think was in them]

The Reformed view (p415)

“Occasionally one can discern a feeble attempt at developing a more organic view of Scripture.” (p415) – The authors used their own intellect, memory, judgement and style (p415) Writers not authors but scribes (p415)

Differences in style sometimes attributed to the Holy Spirit wanting to write in a different way (p415)

“Inspiration is possible because the Spirit of God is immanent in creation” – but a special work of God (p388, editor’s summary)

“Scripture teaches us that the world is not independent, does not exist and live by itself, but the Spirit of God is immanent in everything that has been created. The immanence of God is the basis of all inspiration, including divine inspiration (Ps. 104:30; 139:7; Job 33:4). Existence and life is conferred upon every creature from moment to moment by the inspiration of the Spirit. More particularly, that Spirit of the Lord is the principle of all intelligence and wisdom (Job 32:8; Isa. 11:2); all knowledge and skill, all talent and genius proceeds from him….” (p426) The Spirit’s inspiring of Scripture “accordingly, is not an isolated event; it is linked with all his imminent activity in the world and the church. It is the crown and zenith of it all. The inspiration of the authors in writing the books of the Bible is based on all those other activities of the Holy Spirit.” (p426) – creation, upbringing, education etc.

Inspiration is possible without regeneration (Num 23:5; John 11:51; cf. Num 22:28; 1 Sam 19:24; Heb 6:4) (p427)

 God is the actual speaker and primary author (p428)

Not just impressions etc. but God speaking in human words so that the words of the human writers are his words (p429)

Critical of mechanical views of inspiration which fail to do justice to the activities of the secondary human authors (p430)

It is not necessarily impersonal for people to receive a message from outside themselves that they do not fully understand (p430)

Rejects the disregarding of human personality of the authors as if God lifted them out of history and time and used them “only as mindless, inanimate instruments in the hands of the Holy Spirit.” (p431)

Though the Fathers would speak of the human writers as like musical instruments or pens, “they firmly and unanimously rejected the error of Montanists, who claimed that prophecy and inspiration rendered their mouthpieces unconscious, and often clearly recognized the self-activity of the biblical authors as well.” (p431)

The historical and psychological mediation of revelation more fully appreciated in modern times and that the mechanical view has increasingly given way to a more organic one (p431)

God “confirms and strengthens” “the self-activity of human beings” and does “not destroy” it (p432) – God maintains the distinct though dependant nature of his creatures and allows them to function according to their own nature, personality, rationality and freedom (p432)

God does not obliterate but restores, strengthens and purifies created humanity (p432)

The Bible citations of the human authors shows that “Moses, David, Isaiah, and others, though led by the Spirit, were in fact in the full sense of the word the authors of their books (Matt. 13:14; 22:43; John 1:23, 45; 5:46; 12:38). … the Spirit of the Lord, so far from suppressing the personality of the prophets and apostles, instead heightens the level of their activity…. Their native disposition and bent, their character and inclination, their intellect and development, their emotions and willpower are not undone by the calling that later comes to them… Their whole personality with all their gifts and powers are made serviceable to the calling to which they are called.” (p432)

“the prophets and apostles, as they write, completely remain themselves. They retain their powers of reflection and deliberation, their emotional states and freedom of the will. Research (Luke 1:1), reflection, and memory (John 14:26), the use of sources, and all the ordinary means that an author employs in the process of writing a book are used.” (p433)

As they write they “retain their own character, language and style.” (p434)

“the theory of organic inspiration… is the working out and application of the central fact of revelation: the incarnation of the Word. The Word (logos) has become flesh (sarx), and the word has become Scripture; these two facts do not only run parallel but are most intimately connected…. [Like the incarnate Christ] the word … entered the world of creatureliness, the life and history of humanity… right down into that which was humanly weak and despised and ignoble. ” (p434) – whole passage worth reading! – weakness, lowliness, a servant form in Scripture (p435)

“just as Christ’s human nature, however weak and lowly, remained free from sin, so also Scripture is “conceived without defect or stain”; totally human in all its parts but also divine in all its parts.” (p435)

An organic view of inspiration “more historically and psychologically” (p438)

“Included in the thoughts [which the Spirit inspired] are words; included in the words are the vowels.” (p438)

“Scripture may not be viewed atomistically as though every word and letter by itself is inspired by God as such and has its own meaning with its own infinite, divine content.” (p438)

“Inspiration has to be viewed organically, so that even the lowliest part has its place and meaning and at the same time is much farther removed from (p438) the center than other parts.” (p439)

The Battle against / for the Bible is primarily ethical – as people have always opposed Christ so they oppose the Bible (p439) – Heb 4:12

“It [Scripture] not only was inspired but is still “God-breathed” and “God-breathing”. (p439) “The Holy Spirit does not, after the act of inspiration, withdraw from Holy Scripture and abandon it to its fate but sustains and animates it and in many ways brings its content to humanity, to its heart and conscience.” (p440)

“Scripture is the handmaiden of Christ” (p440) – The ungodly react to it with opposition as they did to Christ

“ignorance of the Scriptures is automatically and proportionately ignorance of Christ (Jerome).” (p440)

 “the Holy Spirit, in the inscripturation of the word of God, did not spurn anything human to serve as an organ of the divine. The revelation of God is not abstractly supernatural but has entered into the human fabric, into persons and states of being, into forms and usages, into history and life. It does (p442) not fly high above us but descends into our situation; it has become flesh and blood, like us in all things except sin. Divine revelation is now an ineradicable constituent of this cosmos in which we live and, effecting renewal and restoration, continues in operation. The human has become and instrument of the divine; the natural has become a revelation of the supernatural; the visible has become a sign and seal of the invisible. In the process of inspiration, use has been made of all the gifts and forces resident in human nature.” (p443)

Differences of language and style between the human authors perfectly natural (p443)

“grace does not cancel out nature but perfect it” (p443)

“ordinary human life and natural life… is made serviceable to God” (p443)

“Even if a book on geography, say, was inspired from cover to cover and was literally dictated word-for-word, it would still not be “God-breathed” and “God-breathing” in the sense of 2 Timothy 3:16. Scripture is the word of God because it has the Word-made-flesh as its matter and content. Form and content interpenetrate each other and are inseperable…. Christ counted nothing human as alien to himself; and Scripture does not overlook even the most minor concerns of daily life (2 Tim 4:13). Christianity is not antithetically opposed to that which is human but is its restoration and renewal.” (p443)

The one thing necessary

Yesterday I heard a helpful exposition of Luke 10:38-42, the account of Mary and Martha. Alliteration's aidful art was perhaps worth noting:

(1) The position of disciples - welcoming and receiving Jesus into their home, sitting at his feet and listening to him

(2) The potential for distraction / The pressure of duties and service, often good and useful service

(3) The priority of listening to Jesus - we need another "D" for that, of course!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Word of God

Bavinck gives examples of the following senses of the word of God:

(1) the power of God by which he creates and upholds all things

(2) special revelation by which God makes something known to the prophets

(3) the content of revelation

(4) the gospel

(5) scripture

(6) Jesus

And then he waxes lyrical:

Christ as the Word of God: “He is the Logos in an utterly unique sense: Revealer and revelation at the same time. All the revelations and words of God, in nature and history, in creation and re-creation, both in the Old and the New Testament, have their ground, unity, and centre in him. He is the sun; the individual words of God are his rays. The word of God in nature, in Israel, in the NT, in Scripture may never even for a moment be separated and abstracted from him. God’s revelation exists only because he is the Logos. He is the first principle of cognition, in a general sense of all knowledge, in a special sense, as the Logos incarnate, of all knowledge of God, of religion, and theology (Matt. 11:27).” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1 p402)

The surprising extra meaning of the Bible

“we are often surprised by the meaning that the NT authors find in the text of the OT … [list of examples] In the case of Jesus and the apostles, this exegesis of the OT in the NT assumes the understanding that a word or sentence can have deeper meaning and a much farther reaching thrust than the original author suspected or put in it.” (p396) – similarly with Goethe and other classical authors! “In Scripture this is even much more strongly the case, in the conviction of Jesus and the apostles, it has the Holy Spirit as its primary author and bears a teleological character.” (p396-7, Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1)

The immediate and automatic authority of Scripture

Bavinck again:

“All that can be said is that the recognition of these writings in the churches occurred automatically, without any formal agreement. With only a few exceptions, the OT and NT writings were immediately, from the time of their origin and in toto, accepted without doubt or protest as holy, divine writings. The place and time at which they were first recognized as authoritative cannot be indicated. They have authority of themselves, by their own right, because they exist. It is the Spirit of the Lord who guided the authors in writing them and the church in acknowledging them.” (Reformed Dogmatics, v1, p401)

The word of God O & NT

I'm afraid I've not been able to resist typing out chunks of Bavinck.

Bavinck argues that there is a striking difference in the way the phrase “the word of God” is used between the testaments. In the Old Testament it is used in the sense of God’s special revelation making something known to the prophets. On almost every page, over and over we read: “the word of the Lord came.” “In the NT we find it in this sense only in John 10:35; now the word does not “come” anymore; it does not come now and then from above and without to the prophets but has come in Christ and remains.” (Reformed Dogmatics, v1, p402)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The distinctive presence of Christ in corporate worship

In my humble opinion, Dr Garry Williams is always worth listening to. I have just had an excellent pre-breakfast work out with his paper from the John Owen Centre 2015 conference on Putting Theology Back into Practice - Everything is Ordinary: Pragmatic Minimalism and the Presence of God.

Really helpful Reformed Scholastic clarifications on the presence of God applied to corporate worship (especially preaching, supper and prayer).

Some very scrappy notes below will give a flavour:

How normal might public worship be? How comfortable can the non-Christian expect to feel in church?
A peculiar presence of God in public worship
A Reformed Scholastic map of God’s presence
God’s infinity – an aspect of God’s moral qualities – God is infinitely holy
immeasurability – (1) temporal – eternal – (2) space – immensity – in and beyond all places, unbounded by place
Omnipresence – (1) his operations – he everywhere acts, of power
(2) His knowledge
(3) His essence – the Socinians denied this – Stephen Charnock – God fills heaven and earth
God’s immutability implies omnipresence
We are present circumscriptively, circumscribed
Angels have a definitive presence – place but not circumscribed
God has his own unique repletive presence – he fills all space
Turretin – this language is possibly too physical
Helm – our language is time infected – it is also place infected
God accommodates himself to us – he speaks creaturely to us
God speaks richly to us

God not contained by creation. It is contained by him. God is not extended like a body but simple infinity of essence. (Turretin)  

God is everywhere, but not physically by multiplication, mixture, extension, diffusion, division etc. (Charnock)

God is beyond the world but not just by being in other places – e.g. not just in the heavenly throne room – beyond all worlds – God is beyond space in himself – but notice the “in” even here

How is God distinctively present in some places?


Operation – sustains all things

In heaven – not by essence but by physical manifestations of his glory – not the prison of his essence but the court room of the revelation of his majestical presence (see Charnock)

Gracious and covenantal presence with his people, efficaciously

God’s presence to the lost – in grace, sustaining but also in wrath

Present to bless or departing from us with his blessing, leaving us to his frown or coming to us in with the arms of his blessing

Distinguish but not separate these presences – God’s essential presence is the foundation of his operational presence

Tabernacle – not more there in essence than elsewhere but in a heaven like visible manifestation of his presence, there for

Col 1:19 – in Christ – the essence of God not more present there than elsewhere – the distinctive operation of the hypostatic union – God made Christ’s humanity uniquely his

God’s presence in us by the Spirit – which bit of me? Not like my heart or lungs! Not physical – God relates to us in a new way, operates in us

Corporate worship – special operational presences of God in corporate worship

(1) Preaching – 2nd Helvetic Confession – the preached word of the God is the word of God – God is present speaking

Eph 2:17 – when did Christ preach like this? In his death? In his earthly ministry? Through the preaching of his messengers, the ascended Christ preaches

Rm 10:14 – how do they believe him whom they have never heard? – Cranfield, not just heard about – Christ is the one who is heard – he speaks to bring about faith

Acts 26:23 – the risen Christ proclaims to the Gentiles – also 4:31; 13:34

1 Thess 2:13

Gal 3:1 – The preacher’s words, which are the words of Christ, presence Christ in his glory before the people – an oral manifestation of cross aurally received – equivalent effect of the physical presence of Christ


(2) The Lord’s Supper

1 Cor 10:16 – cf. Pagan concepts of communion with demons – you can feast with demons

OT background

Thisleton – sharing in Christ

We share in Christ’s body and blood in the Spirit

An actual deepening of the believer’s relationship with Christ – an exclusive union which excludes others (demons), bound in covenant with Christ

(3) Prayer

Mt 18:19-20 relate to previous section v18, “on earth” – thing – pragma – the stuff you agree about – sometimes a specifically judicial sense – subject of forgiveness next too – primarily about the judgements of the church which Christ is present to underwrite – name, presence – Ex 34 – Christ is the glory of God present with his people who meet in his name

All 3 of the above presences of the risen Christ by his Spirit

All of life is lived in God’s essential presence

Christ’s operational presence in corporate worship

Christ is here to do stuff in corporate worship – what are the practical implications of this?

See Westminster Directory of Public Worship for attempt to state the non-negotiable elements of public worship – preaching, praying etc. – The debates are about how / the manner of preaching and praying

An ethos and habit for corporate worship

“atmosphere” / “temperature” – The Lord Jesus is here to do something

A habit – habitus – disposition of the soul

What if the preacher thinks of his words as the presence of Christ speaking, not a person standing up to talk about Jesus or explain the Bible? Not just A talking to B about C. God remote, removed, 3rd person – almost deist. C talking to B through / in the words of A. I / you.

The operative presence of God should be accompanied by fear (awe) and joy (Acts 2, phobos came upon every soul). Not joking around, flippancy, triviality, not dower, dull, cold, unfriendly, uptight.