GENESIS CHAPTER 1
The whole visible creation asserted in general, Genesis 1:1. Showed in particular the condition of the rude matter of it, Genesis 1:2. The formation of the several creatures on the several days.
(1.) Light produced by the powerful word of God, Genesis 1:3; approved and separated from the darkness, Genesis 1:4; named, and the first day declared, Genesis 1:5.
(2.) The firmament formed, its use, name, and time, Genesis 1:6-8.
(3.) The waters separated from the earth; sea and dry land named and approved, Genesis 1:9-10. The earth brings forth grass, herbs, and trees; approved, and time declared, Genesis 1:11-13.
(4.) The firmament furnished with sun, moon, and stars; their uses assigned, their names, with approbation, and time of doing, declared, Genesis 1:14-19.
(5.) Waters and air furnished, approved, blessed, and time of it declared, Genesis 1:20-23.
(6.) The earth furnished with living creatures sensitive, and approved, Genesis 1:24-25. Rational man in both sexes created upon consultation, according to God's image, with dominion over the other creatures; and blessed, Genesis 1:26-28. Food appointed for man, Genesis 1:29; for beasts, Genesis 1:30: the whole approved on the sixth day.
In the beginning, to wit, of time and things, in the first place, before things were distinguished and perfected in manner hereafter expressed. Or the sense is this, The beginning of the world was thus. And this phrase further informeth us, that the world, and all things in it, had a beginning, and were not from eternity, as some philosophers dreamed.
God created the heaven and the earth; made out of nothing, either,
1. The heaven and earth as now they are with their inhabitants. So this verse is a summary or brief of what is particularly declared in the rest of this chapter. Or,
2. The substance and common matter of heaven and earth. Which seems more probably by comparing this verse with the next, where the earth here mentioned is declared to be without form, and the heavens without light; as also with Genesis 2:1, where the heavens and the earth, here only said to be created, are said to be finished or perfected. Yet I conceive the third heaven to be included under the title of the heaven, and to have been created and perfected the first day, together with its blessed inhabitants the holy angels, as may be collected from Job 33:6-7. But the Scripture being written for men, and not for angels, the Holy Ghost thought it sufficient to comprehend them and their dwelling-place under that general term of the heavens, and proceedeth to give a more particular account of the visible heavens and earth, which were created for the use of man. In the Hebrew it is, the heavens andthe earth. For there are three heavens mentioned in Scripture: the aerial; the place of birds, clouds, and meteors, Matthew 26:64Revelation 19:17Revelation 20:9. The starry; the region of the sun, the moon, and stars, Genesis 22:17. The highest or third heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:2; the dwelling of the blessed angels.
The same confused mass or heap is here called both
earth, from its most solid and substantial part; and the
deep, from its vast bulk and depth; and waters, from its outward face and covering. See Psalms 104:62 Peter 3:5.
Without form and void; without order and beauty, and without furniture and use.
Upon the face, the surface or uppermost part of it, upon which the light afterward shone. Thus not the earth only, but also the heaven above it, was without light, as is manifest from the following verses.
The Spirit of God; not the wind, which was not yet created, as is manifest, because the air, the matter or subject of it, was not yet produced; but the Third Person of the glorious Trinity, called the Holy Ghost, to whom the work of creation is attributed, Job 26:13, as it is ascribed to the Second Person, the Son, John 1:3Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 1:3, and to the First Person, the Father, every where.
Upon the face of the waters, i.e. upon the waters, to cherish, quicken, and dispose them to the production of the things after mentioned. It is a metaphor from birds hovering and fluttering over, and sitting upon their eggs and young ones, to cherish, warm, and quicken them.
He commanded, not by such a word or speech as we use, which agreeth not with the spiritual nature of God; but either by an act of his powerful will, called the word of his power, Hebrews 1:3 or, by his substantial Word, his Son, by whom he made the worlds, Hebrews 1:2Psalms 33:6, who is called: The Word, partly, if not principally, for this reason,
John 1:1-3,, John 1:10.
There was light; which was some bright and lucid body, peradventure like the fiery cloud in the wilderness, giving a small and imperfect light, successively moving over the several parts of the earth; and afterwards condensed, increased, perfected, and gathered together in the sun.
He observed with approbation that it was pleasant and amiable, agreeable to God’s purpose and man’s use; and made a distinction or separation between them in place, time, and use, that the one should succeed and shut out the other, and so by their vicissitudes make the day and the night.
It is acknowledged by all, that the
evening and the morning are not here to be understood according to our common usage, but are put by a synecdoche each of them for one whole part of the natural day. But because it may be doubted which part each of them signifies, some understand by
evening, the foregoing day; and by
the morning, the foregoing night; and so the natural day begins with the morning or the light, as it did with the ancient Chaldeans. Others by
evening understand the first night or darkness which was upon the face of the earth, Genesis 1:2, which probably continued for the space of about twelve hours, the beginning whereof might fitly be called
evening; and by
morning the succeeding light or day, which may reasonably be supposed to continue the other twelve hours, or thereabouts. And this seems the truer opinion,
1. Because the darkness was before the light, as the
evening is put before the
morning, Genesis 1:5,, Genesis 1:8, and afterwards.
2. Because this best agrees both with the vulgar and with the Scripture use of the terms of
evening and morning.
3. Because the Jews, who had the best opportunity of knowing the mind of God in this matter by Moses and other succeeding prophets, begun both their common and sacred days with the evening, as is confessed, and may be gathered from Leviticus 23:32.
Were the first day; did constitute or make up the first day; day of being taken largely for the natural day, consisting of twenty-four hours: these were the parts the first day; and the like is to be understood of the succeeding days. Moreover, God, who could have made all things at once, was pleased to divide his work into six days, partly to give us occasion more distinctly and seriously to consider God's works, and principally to lay the foundation for the weekly sabbath, as is clearly intimated, Genesis 2:2-3Exodus 20:9-11.
A firmament; or, an extension, or a space or
place extended or stretched out, and spread abroad like a tent or curtain, between the waters, though not exactly in the middle place; as Tyrus is said to sit, or be situated in the midst of the seas, Ezekiel 28:2, though it was but a little space within the sea. But of these things see more in Genesis 1:7.
The firmament here is either,
1. The starry heaven; so called, not from its solidity, but from its fixed, durable, and, in a sort, incorruptible and unchangeable nature. Or,
2. The air; called here, the expansion, or extension, because it is extended far and wide, even from the earth to the third heaven; called also the firmament, because it is fixed in its proper place, from whence it cannot be moved, unless by force.
The waters under the firmament are seas, rivers, lakes, fountains, and other waters in the bowels of the earth.
The waters above the firmament, or above the heavens, as they are called, Psalms 148:4, are either,
1. A collection or sea of waters placed by God above all the visible heavens, and there reserved for ends known to himself. Or rather,
2. The waters in the clouds; for the clouds are called waters, Psalms 18:11Psalms 104:3, and are said to be in heaven, 2 Samuel 21:10Matthew 24:30, and the production thereof is mentioned as an eminent work of God's creation, Job 35:5Job 36:29Psalms 147:8Proverbs 8:28; which therefore it is not credible that Moses in his history of the creation would admit, which he doth, if they be not here meant; and these are rightly said to be above the firmament, i.e. the air, because they are above a considerable part of it. As God commanded and ordered it, so it was done and settled.
The waters under the heaven; both the great abyss, or deep of water which is shut up in the bowels of the earth, Genesis 7:11Psalms 24:2Psalms 33:7Psalms 136:6; as also the sea and rivers, all which are here said to be gathered together into one place, because of their communication and mixture one with another.
Let the dry land appear; for hitherto it was covered with water, Genesis 1:22 Peter 3:5.
He called them not sea, but seas; because of the differing quantity and nature both of several seas, and of the rivers, and other lesser collections of waters, all which the Hebrews call seas.
The separation of the waters was begun on the second day, Genesis 1:6, &c., but not perfected till this third day; therefore God’s approbation of that work is not mentioned there, but here only.
Let the earth bring forth; the sense is: For the present let it afford matter, out of which I will make grass (as man’s rib afforded matter, out of which God made woman); and for the future let it receive virtue or power of producing it out of that matter which I have made, and suited to that end.
Grass; that which groweth of itself without seed or manuring, and is the food of beasts.
The herb yielding seed, for the propagation of their several kinds, to wit, mature and perfect herbs, which alone yield seed. So afterwards God made man, not in the state of children, but of grown and perfect age.
After his kind, i.e. according to the several kinds of fruits.
Whose seed is in itself; now is by my constitution, and shall be for the future. In some part of itself, either in the root, or branch, or leaf, or bud, or fruit. The sense is, which is sufficient of itself for the propagation of its kind, without any conjunction of male and female.
This clause is so often added, to show that all the disorders, evil and hurtful qualities, that now are in the creatures, are not to be imputed to God, who made all of them good; but to man’s sin, which hath corrupted their nature, and perverted their use.
Let there be lights; to wit, more glorious lights than that created the first day, which probably was now condensed and reduced into these lights; which are higher for place, more illustrious for light, and more powerful for influence, than that was. Note here, that herbs and trees were created before the sun, whose influence now is necessary for their production, to show that God doth not depend upon the means or upon the help of the creatures in his operations.
The day, i.e. the artificial day, reaching from sun-rising to sunsetting.
Let them be for signs; for the designation and distincton of times, as months, weeks, &c.; as also for the signification of the quality of the weather or season, by the manner of their rising and setting, Matthew 16:2; by their eclipses, conjunctions, &c. And for the discovery of supernatural and miraculous effects; of which see Joshua 10:13Isaiah 38:8Luke 21:25-26Acts 2:19-20.
And for seasons, and for days, and years:
1. By their motions and influences to produce and distinguish the four seasons of the year, mentioned Genesis 8:22. And to show as well the fit times and seasons for sowing, planting, reaping, navigation, &c., as for the observation of set and solemn feasts, or other times for the ordering of ecclesiastical or civil affairs.
2. By their diurnal and swift motion to make the days, and by their nearer approaches to us, or further distances from us, to make the days or nights either longer, or shorter, or equal. He speaks here of natural days, consisting of twenty-four hours.
3. By their annual and slower motion to make years.
Two great lights, or, enlighteners, as the word properly signifies. The sun, which is really and considerably greater than the moon, or any of the stars, or the whole earth. And the moon, called here the lesser light, is greater than any of the stars, not really, but in appearance, and in clearness and light, in respect of which it is called great in this place, and both are much greater in efficacy and use than any of the stars.
To rule the day; either,
1. To influence the earth and its fruits with heat or moisture, and to govern men’s actions and affairs, which commonly are transacted by day; for the word day is sometimes put metonymically for the events of the day, as Proverbs 27:11 Corinthians 3:13. Or,
2. To regulate and manage the day; by its rise to begin it, by its gradual progress to carry it on, even to the mid-day, and by its declination and setting to impair and end it. Which seems most probable, because the moon is in like manner said to rule the night, which is meant of the time, and not of the actions or events of the night.
This clause was omitted in the first day’s work, but is added here, because the light was then but glimmering and imperfect, which now was made more clear and complete.
The moving creature, or, creeping thing. A word which belongs to all those living creatures who move with their bellies close to the element they move in. Hence it is used both of birds which fly in the air, Leviticus 11:20, and of things creeping upon the earth, as Genesis 1:24, and of fishes that swim in the sea, as here.
And fowl that may fly above the earth. The particle that or
which is oft wanting, and to be understood in the Hebrew language, as Genesis 39:4Job 41:1Isaiah 6:6: according to this translation the fowl have their matter from the water as well as the fishes; which seem most probable, as from this, so also from the following verses, in which they are both mentioned together, as made of the same materials, and as works of the same day, and both are blessed together, and both are distinguished and separated from the production of the earth, which were the works of the sixth day, Genesis 1:24, &c. And whereas it is said, Genesis 2:19, Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; it may be answered, That the word ground or earth may be there understood more largely, as it is confessedly in some other places of Scripture, for the lower part of the world, consisting of earth and water. For it is most reasonable to expound that short and general passage from the foregoing chapter, wherein the original both of beasts and fowls are largely and distinctly described. Moreover, the fowl seem to have been made of both these elements, viz. of soft and moist earth, possibly taken from the bottom of the water, in which case they were brought forth by the water, as is said here, and formed out of the ground, as there. As Eve is said to be made of Adam’s bone and rib, Genesis 2:21; and of his flesh Genesis 1:23. Which shows that with the rib flesh was taken from Adam, though it be not said so, Genesis 1:21. So here, the fowl were made both of water and earth, as their temper and constitution shows, though but one of them be here expressed. But these words are by some translated thus,
and let the fowl fly. But according to that translation, the mention of the fowl, both here and in Genesis 1:21, seems to be very improper and forced. For it is preposterous, and contrary to the method constantly used in this whole chapter, to speak of the motion of any living creature, and the place thereof, before its original and production be mentioned. Besides, either the original of the fowls is described here, or it is wholly omitted in this chapter, which is not credible.
God created, i.e. produced out of most unfit matter, as if a man should out of a stone make bread, which requires as great a power as that which is properly called creation.
Great whales; those vast sea monsters known by that name, though elsewhere this word be applied to great dragons of the earth.
After his kind; in such manner as is declared in the first note upon Genesis 1:20. See Poole on "Genesis 1:20".
He gave them power of procreation and fruitfulness, which is justly mentioned as a great blessing, Psalms 128:3-4.
Fill the waters in the seas; and consequently in the rivers, which come from the sea, and return into it.
Let fowl multiply in the earth, where they shall commonly have their habitation, though they had their original from the waters; of which see Poole on "Genesis 1:20".
1. Those living creatures hereafter mentioned, whose original is from the earth, and whose habitation is in it.
2. Those tame beasts which are most familiar with and useful to men for food, clothing, or other service.
3. Creeping thing; to wit, of the earth, of a differing kind from those creeping things of the water, Genesis 1:20.
4. The wild beast, as the Hebrew word commonly signifies, and as appears further, because they are distinguished from the tame beasts, here called cattle.
God had now prepared all things necessary for man’s use and comfort. The plurals us and our afford an evident proof of a plurality of persons in the Godhead. It is plain from many other texts, as well as from the nature and reason of the thing, that God alone is man’s Creator: the angels rejoiced at the work of creation, but only God wrought it, Job 38:4-7. And it is no less plain from this text, and from divers other places, that man had more Creators than one person: see Job 35:10John 1:2-3, &c.; Hebrews 1:3. And as other texts assure us that there is but one God, so this shows that there are more persons in the Godhead; nor can that seeming contradiction of one and more being in the Godhead be otherwise reconciled, than by acknowledging a plurality of persons in the unity of essence. It is pretended that God here speaks after the manner of princes, in the plural number, who use to say: We will
and require, or, It is our pleasure. But this is only the invention and practice of latter times, and no way agreeable to the simplicity, either of the first ages of the world, or of the Hebrew style. The kings of Israel used to speak of themselves in the singular number, 2 Samuel 3:28, 1 Chronicles 21:17, 1 Chronicles 29:14, 2 Chronicles 2:6. And so did the eastern monarchs too, yea, even in their decrees and orders, which now run in the plural number, as Ezra 6:8, I (Darius) make a decree; Ezra 7:21, I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree. Nor do I remember one example in Scripture to the contrary. It is therefore a rash and presumptuous attempt, without any warrant, to thrust the usages of modern style into the sacred Scripture. Besides, the Lord doth generally speak of himself in the singular number, some few places excepted, wherein the plural number is used for the signification of this mystery. Moreover, this device is utterly overthrown by comparing this text with Genesis 3:22:
The Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us. Therefore there are more persons than one in the Godhead. How many they are other texts plainly inform us, as we shall see in their proper places. And whereas he saith not now as he did before: Let the earth or waters
bring forth, but, Let us make; this change of the phrase and manner of expression shows that man was, as the last, so the most perfect and the chief of the ways and works of God in this lower world.
After our likeness. Image and likeness are two words noting the same thing, even exact likeness. For both of them are used of Adam, Genesis 5:3:
He begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and they are separately and indifferently used in the same sense, man being said to be made in the likeness of God, Genesis 5:1, and in the image of God, Genesis 9:6.
Quest. Wherein doth the image of God in man consist?
Answ. 1. It is in the whole man, both in the blessedness of his estate, and in his dominion over the rest of the creatures.
2. It shines forth even in the body, in the majesty of man’s countenance, and height of his stature, which is set towards heaven, when other creatures by their down-looks show the lowness and meanness of their nature, as even heathens have observed.
3. It principally consists and most eminently appears in man’s soul.
1. In its nature and substance, as it is, like God, spiritual, invisible, immortal, &c.
2. In its powers and faculties, reason or understanding, and freedom in its choice and actions.
3. In the singular endowments wherewith God hath adorned it, as knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, in which St. Paul chiefly placeth this image, Ephesians 4:24Colossians 3:10.
The male and female are both comprehended in the word man, as is expressed, Genesis 1:27, together with their posterity.
Over the cattle; by which he understands either,
1. Both tame and wild beasts, the same word being used here in a differing sense from what it hath Genesis 1:25, as is frequent in Scripture. Or,
2. Tame beasts, which are particularly mentioned, because they are more under man’s dominion than the wild beasts, and more fitted for man’s use and benefit, though the other be not excluded, but comprehended under the former, as the more famous kind, as is usual in Scriptures and other authors.
Over all the earth; over all other creatures and productions of the earth, and over the earth itself, to manage it as they see fit for their own comfort and advantage.
Not both together, as some of the Jews have fabled, but successively, the woman after and out of the man, as is more particularly related, Genesis 2:21, &c., which is here mentioned by anticipation. Albeit the woman also seems to have been made upon the sixth day, as is here related, and as the following blessing showeth, which is common to both of them, though the particular history of it is brought in afterwards, Genesis 2:1-25, by way of recapitulation or repetition.
Having blessed them with excellent natures, and heavenly gifts and graces, he further blesseth them with a special and temporal blessing expressed in the following words.
Replenish the earth, with inhabitants to be begotten by you.
Question. Whether this be a command obliging all men to marriage and procreation? So the Hebrew doctors think. It may be thus resolved:
1. It is a command obliging all men so far as not to suffer the extinction of mankind: thus it did absolutely bind Adam and Eve, as also Noah, and his sons and their wives, after the Flood.
2. It doth not oblige every particular person to marry, as appears both from the example of the Lord Jesus, who lived and died in an unmarried state, and from his commendation of those who made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God, Matthew 19:12; and from St. Paul’s approbation of virginity, 1 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Corinthians 7:8, 1 Corinthians 7:26-27, 1 Corinthians 7:32, &c.
3. It is here rather a promise or benediction than a command, as appears both from Genesis 2:22, where the same words are applied to the brute beasts, who are not subject to a command; and because if this were a command, it would equally oblige every man to exercise dominion over fishes and fowls, &c., which is absurd. It is therefore a permission rather than a command, though it be expressed in the form of a command, as other permissions frequently are, as Genesis 2:16Deuteronomy 14:4.
It is neither affirmed nor denied that flesh also was granted to the first men for food, and therefore we may safely be ignorant of it. It is sufficient for us that it was expressly allowed, Genesis 9:3.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 1:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/genesis-1.html. 1685.
Behind the centrality of expositional preaching is the assumption of the authority and truthfulness of God’s Word. At a recent meeting with the pastoral assistants here at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, I gave a quick bibliography of the history of the controversy over inerrancy. I thought it might be useful for you, too. Many of these books will be well known to those of you who are my age and older, but many may not be known to those of you who are younger. Here, then, are some resources for you about the matter of biblical inerrancy.
Of the making of books on inerrancy, there is no end. Ours has not been the first generation to deal with the questions at the root of it, and, if the Lord tarries, ours will not be the last. Though the discussion changes—now we’ve largely moved on to discussions of epistemology, hermeneutics, and postmodernism—we continue to assume what we have learned, particularly in the massive amount of reflection that went on in the 20th century among evangelicals about this issue.
The roots of this discussion are, of course, ancient. Passing by Psalm 119, Our Lord’s use of Scripture, early citations and the discussions of Aquinas and the Reformers, let’s begin our modern bibliography with the work of Francis Turretin (1623-1687). Turretin’s work influenced generations of theologians and ministers both in Europe and North America. The section on Scripture was translated, edited and printed by John W. Beardslee III (Baker, 1981). This volume—in its Latin original—exercised great influence upon generations of evangelical ministers trained at Princeton and other evangelical institutions.
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
The classic work on this in the first half of the 19th century, which really acts as a backdrop to all the discussion to come, was by L. Gaussen, professor of systematic theology in Geneva, Switzerland. It was translated into English in 1841 as Theopneustia:The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, and has been reprinted many times.Additionally, Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853), a celebrated professor of legal evidence at Harvard, had lectured on the reliability of the gospels. These lectures were published posthumously as The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence in 1874 and have been re-printed many times. In some ways, the arguments here are the grandparents of those which have been recycled many times by people from the late Sir Norman Anderson to Josh McDowell and other apologists.
At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, the historian and archaeologist Sir William Ramsay was publishing a series of works which, among other things, established the historical veracity of the accounts of Luke and Paul in the New Testament. Among this series of works are
The Church in the Roman Empire before A.D. 170 (Hodder and Stoughton, 1894)
St. Paulthe Traveller and Roman Citizen (Hodder and Stoughton, 1895)
Pauline and Other Studies in Early Church History (Hodder and Stoughton, 1906)
The Cities of St. Paul (Hodder and Stoughton, 1907).
This series of volumes—10 in all—have often been reprinted, and they have continuing historical value.
PRINCETON AND WESTMINSTER
At the same time in the late 19th century, systematic theological reflection was represented by works from scholars at Princeton and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1881, A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield co-wrote an influential article on Inspiration (later reprinted under the title Inspiration, with an introduction and appendices by Roger Nicole (Baker, 1979). A few years later, Basil Manly, Jr., published his little volume The Bible Doctrine of Inspiration (A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1888). This volume grew out of the controversies at Southern Seminary regarding the theological apostasy of an Old Testament professor there, C. H. Toy.
Throughout his career at Princeton, B. B. Warfield published articles on the doctrines of the nature, inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. After his death, they were brought together in what has become perhaps the most influential book among conservative evangelicals on the topic—certainly the most often-cited:B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948). he book is really a collection of articles by Warfield written in the late 19th century.These articles are often referenced, but too rarely read. They are dismissed by caricatures when they are in fact models of careful exegetical work. More could be said, but let me simply commend them to the reader.
Of course, this issue was at the heart of the creation of Westminster Seminary from the orthodox remains of Princeton. J. Gresham Machen argued out that Christianity and liberalism are really two different religions. In 1923 he published these arguments as Christianity and Liberalism (reprinted by Eerdmans). This argument would be picked up again by J.I. Packer forty years later in his “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God.Bradley Longfield has provided an excellent historical overview of the Princeton struggle, with some reference to the theological issues in his book The Presbyterian Controversy:Fundamentalists, Modernists & Moderates (Oxford, 1991).
In the middle decades of the 20th century, the battle for inerrancy seemed over in the mainline and irrelevant for the convinced conservatives, the evangelicals. There were, nevertheless some more North American and British publications which continued to explore the issues.
On the North American side, a colloquium of the faculty at Westminster Seminary published its papers in a volume entitled The Infallible Word, edited by Ned Stonehouse and Paul Woolley (Westminster Theological Seminary, 1946). Undertaken to celebrate the tercentennary of the Westminster Confession of Faith, this was the first of many edited collections of essays on the topic to be forthcoming over the next forty years. The Westminster faculty continued to be helpful. Ned Stonehouse encouraged Norval Geldenhuys, a South African minister, to publish Supreme Authority (1953).In 1957, Westminster Professor of Old Testament E.J. Young published his quite substantial volume, Thy Word is Truth (Eerdmans, 1957), perhaps the most significant work on the topic to that date by an evangelical in the 20th century. Also in 1957, R. Larid Harris published his careful work on the Inspirtation and Canonicity of the Bible (reprinted as Inspiration and Canonicity of the Scriptures,1995).In 1958 Carl F. H. Henry, the editor of the new magazine Christianity Today, edited a large collection of essays, Revelation and the Bible (Baker [US]; Tyndale [UK], 1958), in which many of the leading evangelicals of the day summarized Christian teaching. Henry’s wide scope was a foreshadowing of what was to come from him later.
In the United Kingdom, other resources were coming to help with the inerrancy controversy. In 1958, J. I. Packer published “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God (IVCF, 1958) in response to high churchman Gabriel Hebert’s Fundamentalism and the Church of God, and to liberal criticism of the recent Billy Graham crusades in Cambridge and London. Packer’s concise summaries and arguments were powerful and influential. He immediately became something of a spokesman for the conservative evangelicals in the Church of England and beyond. His book used some of the same arguments as Machen’s earlier volume, but somewhat refined—less polemic, more taxonomy. In 1965 the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion published another work of Packer’s, even more focused on Scripture, called God Speaks to Man. It was expanded and reissued by IVP in 1979 as God Has Spoken, and then published by Baker in 1988 (this time including the Chicago Statements) and came out in a third edition with a new foreword in 1993.It is an excellent introduction to the whole discussion. In 1976, the Australian New Testament scholar, Leon Morris, published a book (Hodder & Stoughton, UK; Eerdmans, USA) in the “I Believe” series, I Believe in Revelation. Morris had decades earlier established his controversial and scholarly credentials with his defense of the idea of propitiation in the atonement over against C. H. Dodd’s work. And in 1978 Brian Edwards, a free church pastor, brought out a popular volume called Nothing but the Truth. This was expanded and reissued in 1993 (Evangelical Press).
On a more academic level (largely ignored in this article) our British friends were making further contributions to maintaining the inerrancy of Scripture. F.F. Bruce had first written The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? in 1943 (IVP). The book has gone through numerous editions and some expansion since then, never going out of print or losing its concise usefulness. These are 120 pages worth reading. In the same “reliability” genre, though out of chronological order, let me simply mention a couple of other books:Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP, 1987) with a foreword by F.F. Bruce, and Walter Kaiser’s The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (IVP, 2001). F.F. Bruce’s contributions to the field of New Testament studies are many, but for the purposes of this topic, the one other book you should be aware of is his book The Canon of Scripture (Chapter House, 1988).
Two stalwarts in the academic trenches that were helpful to evangelical students from their publication in the 1960’s until the present day were more technical introductions that helped students to sort through knotty questions of dating and authorship. They were the introductions written by Donald Guthrie and R. K. Harrison. Throughout the 1960’s the Anglican clergyman Donald Guthrie was teaching at London Bible College and publishing his introductions to various portions of the New Testament. They were finally brought together and published as one volume in 1970 (IVP) and have remained in print since then, with a final, fourth revised edition appearing in 1990. And in 1969, Professor R. K. Harrison of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Canada, published his magnum opus, Introduction to the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1969).
THE CHANGE AT FULLER
All of this academic work took place against the background of shifting currents inside evangelicalism. The most significant change was the dropping in the early 1960’s of Fuller Theological Seminary’s commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible. George Marsden has given us a clear history of this in his book Reforming Fundamentalism:Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1987).This, read in conjunction with Longfield, makes particularly interesting reading.
The late 1960’s and 1970’s found evangelicalism digesting the changes that were happening. Clark Pinnock, a young Canadian professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, stoutly defended inerrancy. He had studied with F. F. Bruce, and in 1966 gave the Tyndale Lecture in Biblical Theology which was published the next year as A Defense of Biblical Infallibility (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967). For the next few years, Pinnock continued to ably defend this view. He did so most extensively in his book Biblical Revelation:The Foundation of Christian Theology (Moody, 1971; reissued with introduction by J. I. Packer, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1985). Throughout this period, Francis Schaeffer was exercising a strong influence on the rising generation of evangelicals. Many of his works presumed the importance of inerrancy. A good example of this would be in his little 1968 IVP book, Escape from Reason.
By 1973 more conservative evangelicals were understanding that significant shifts were underway and were wanting to respond to them.Popular teacher R. C. Sproul assembled a group of conservative leaders—John Frame, John Gerstner, John Warwick Montgomery, J. I. Packer, Clark Pinnock—to frame “The Ligonier Statement” affirming biblical inerrancy. They presented papers and published them in an informative volume, John Warwick Montgomery, ed., God’s Inerrant Word (Bethany Fellowship, 1974). (Pinnock, of course, would later disown this position in his book, The Scripture Principle, [Harper & Row, 1984].)
LINDSELL VS. ROGERS AND MCKIM
“The book that rocked the evangelical world” as it has been called (by its own publisher) was published in 1976. That year Harold Lindsell, part of the losing faculty at Fuller ten years earlier, published his exposé of the theological slippage on the issue of inerrancy. He named names.The book—The Battle for the Bible (Zondervan, 1976)—is a must-read for understanding the whole controversy over inerrancy.He pinpointed problems in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, in the Southern Baptist Convention, and in Fuller Theological Seminary, among others. To some the book was infamous; to others it was a clarion call to action. To it, more than any other, we probably owe the torrent of literature on the topic that was about to be written. (Francis Schaeffer did publish a rather similar, though more wide-ranging critique, The Great Evangelical Disaster [Crossway, 1984].)In 1979, Lindsell published a follow-up, The Bible in the Balance (Zondervan, 1979), updating the various criticisms and observations he had made.
One thing Lindsell’s Battle for the Bible did was to stir up open opposition among evangelicals to inerrancy.The leader of these was perhaps Jack Rogers (who is still active in the PCUSA).In 1977, Rogers edited a volume, published by Word, called Biblical Authority, in which he got various leading and respected evangelicals to question the clarity of Lindsell’s vision. He and Donald McKim then followed up two years later with what has become the Bible of the anti-inerrantists—Jack Rogers and Donald McKim’s The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible:An Historical Approach (Harper and Row, 1979), in which they suggest that the history of the church revealed that the current conservative evangelical position on the inerrancy of the Bible was an historical novelty and simply a rationalist philosophical position wrongly obtruded on believers.Warfield was their chief bogeyman and old Princeton their chief target.
Rogers’ and McKim’s work was subjected to a number of critical reviews, none more searching than John Woodbridge’s Biblical Authority:A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Zondervan, 1982). If you haven’t read them, suffice it to say that Woodbridge, a more careful historian than Rogers and McKim, absolutely disassembles their thesis.Woodbridge’s book, however, is rarely read by non-evangelicals and so has not served to stop the myth that Rogers and McKim have rather successfully sold to an uncritical audience that wants to agree with them.
THE ICBI AND ITS PROGENY
One of the unwitting results of Lindsell’s book, along with Rogers and McKim’s thesis, was to galvanize conservative evangelicals into reflection and writing. And so the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy was formed and operated from 1977 to 1987. The plan, all along, was to have a limited life, so as not to form another institution which could go astray.Its purpose was to hold conferences and publish books to the end of championing the traditional position on the inerrancy of Scripture. And their efforts—and those of their friends at the time—have left us one of the richest stores of literature on inerrancy. Here is an incomplete list, but perhaps comprising the most important productions of the period:
James Montgomery Boice, ed., The Foundation of Biblical Authority (Zondervan, 1978). This was the first of the ICBI productions. It was quickly followed by a booklet published by ICBI, James Montgomery Boice, Does Inerrancy Matter? (1979).
Earl Radmacher, ed., Can We Trust the Bible? (Tyndale House, 1979). This was the second collaborative ICBI production. It was the companion piece to Boice’s Foundations of Biblical Authority.Boice’s edited volume had presented six position papers from the October 1978 ICBI Chicago Summit; Radmacher’s now presented six sermons from that same conference.
Norman Geisler, ed., Inerrancy (Zondervan, 1980). Another ICBI production, the collection of some of the papers from their first “summit,” the conference which produced the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. R. C. Sproul produced a brief commentary on the Chicago Statement, Explaining Inerrancy (ICBC, 1980).
Roger Nicole and J. Ramsey Michaels, eds., Inerrancy and Common Sense (Baker, 1980). This was a festschrift in honor of Harold John Ockenga, and served as a manifesto that the Gordon-Conwell faculty (which its authors mainly were) were supporters of inerrancy.
D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, eds., Scripture and Truth (Zondervan, 1983). This may be the best in all this series of edited volumes, its papers seeming to break through to a longer and somewhat more formidable level of scholarship. That’s a good thing!
Ronald Youngblood, ed., Evangelicals and Inerrancy (Nelson, 1984). This is a highly interesting selection of articles published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society in the previous 30 years on the topic of inerrancy.
Earl Radmacher and Robert Preus, eds., Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible (Zondervan, 1984). This was the collection of papers from the second ICBI summit.This is one of the best of all of these collections.
John Hannah, ed., Inerrancy and the Church (Moody, 1984). This is another ICBI production, this time focusing on the history of the church’s discussion of the issue.
D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge, eds., Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon (Zondervan, 1986). This is a companion volume to the other Carson and Woodbridge volume, again not an official ICBI product, but sympathetic and with papers of a high academic quality.The final chapter in this volume is an excellent essay on the canon by David Dunbar.
Kenneth Kantzer, ed., Applying the Scriptures (Zondervan, 1987). This is the series of papers from the third and final ICBI summit.
Harvie Conn, ed., Inerrancy and Hermeneutic (Baker, 1988). This is a good collection of papers from the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary.
Kenneth Kantzer and Carl F. H. Henry, eds., Evangelical Affirmations (Zondervan, 1990). These are papers from a conference not primarily on inerrancy, but it is interesting to see how the topic continues to be worked out in the papers of David Wells and others.
It should be mentioned during all this time that individual authors were also putting out volumes on the topic of the Bible and its inerrant nature.J. I. Packer in 1980 brought out a series of his articles on the topic, under the title Beyond the Battle for the Bible (Crossway). Ronald Nash did a fine little piece of popularized systematic theology on the issue, The Word of God and the Mind of Man (Zondervan, 1982). James Montgomery Boice published addresses he had given at ICBI conferences in a 1984 volume entitled Standing on the Rock: Upholding Biblical Authority in a Secular Age (Baker 1984; 2nd ed Kregel 1994).
Most notable of all was Carl F. H. Henry’s 6-volume series God, Revelation and Authority (Word 1976-1983; rpt. Crossway, 1999). As we near twenty years from Henry’s completion of his massive work, it looks clearly dated, but arguably even more important. Philosophical issues of epistemology and meaning have dominated the discussions during the intervening years, discussions which Henry was already engaging at a high level. More recently, David Wells’ No Place for Truth, or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology (Eerdmans, 1993), does some of the same kind of work in a more applied and contemporary manner.The implications of inerrancy and truthfulness are carefully considered and well-illustrated.
THE SOUTHERN BAPTISTS
Though some of the authors just mentioned are Southern Baptists (e.g., Carl Henry, Ronald Nash, Roger Nicole), I want to give special attention to what was happening among them. Lindsell targeted the Southern Baptist Convention especially with one chapter in his Battle for the Bible, but all he did was help to ignite a controversy that had been going publicly, though intermittently, since the early 1960s. W. A. Criswell’s Why I Preach That the Bible is Literally True (Broadman, 1969) was the text about the whole issue for many Baptists. In 1980, Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, at the time both professors at Southwestern Seminary, did some historical excavations among Baptist theologians of the past and produced their own, denomination-specific rebuttal of Rogers and McKim. No suggestion that inerrancy was alien to the Baptist tradition could well survive this 400-plus-page survey—Baptists and the Bible (Moody, 1980).
As the ICBI wound down, the heat was boiling in the SBC. In 1987, Duane Garrett and Richard Melick, Jr., edited Authority and Interpretation: A Baptist Perspective (Baker, 1987). Official denominational authorities produced an ICBI-like conference at Ridgecrest, called “The Conference on Biblical Inerrancy.”In many ways, this was a command performance by many of the main “northern evangelicals” with responses by a liberal, and also by a conservative Southern Baptist leader. The speakers included historian Mark Noll, Lutheran theologian Robert Preus, and many others, including J. I. Packer, Kenneth Kantzer, Millard Erickson and Clark Pinnock.The papers were published as The Proceedings of the Conference on Biblical Inerrancy 1987 (Broadman, 1987). No editor is listed. The papers are of varying quality, of course, but of great interest historically. An odd combination of an historical and theological collection of essays is Beyond the Impasse?Scripture, Interpretation & Theology in Baptist Life, edited by Robison B. James and David S. Dockery (Broadman, 1992).A number of the leading figures on both sides of the controversy contributed essays to this volume.
On a purely historical note, the pointed question of inerrancy raised the even larger question of Baptist identity. It was all part of the struggle going on to define the denomination and its agencies. One piece done so early that it became a part of the struggle was Nancy Ammerman’s Baptist Battles (Rutgers, 1990).This is the work that demonstrated (to those still doubting it) that the struggle in the SBC was not just about power—but it was, as the conservatives had maintained—about theology. David Dockery edited an interesting volume, Southern Baptists and American Evangelicals (Broadman & Holman, 1993), which shows the depth of the questions that the inerrancy controversy had raised.Two notable recent recountings of the struggles are Paul Pressler’s A Hill on Which to Die (Broadman & Holman, 1999) and Jerry Sutton’s The Baptist Reformation (Broadman & Holman, 2000)
THAT’S NOT ALL, FOLKS…
Many other books could be mentioned. Let me simply give you one more related category. Questions of inerrancy often arise from particular difficulties that seem to arise from reading—something that seems hard to understand, or even a discrepancy. There is a genre of books which deal with just such passages in the Bible. A few of them are John W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (1874; rpt. Baker, 1977), Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan, 1982), Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask:A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Victor, 1992), and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., and others, Hard Sayings of the Bible (IVP, 1996). A number of Josh McDowell’s books would also fit in this category.
There have also been fresh efforts to examine and consider the sufficiency of Scripture.Noel Weeks wrote The Sufficiency of Scripture (Banner of Truth, 1988).Don Kistler has edited Sola Scriptura! The Protestant Position on the Bible (1995) with contributions by Robert Godfrey, Sinclair Ferguson, John MacArthur and others. Keith A. Mathison has written The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Canon Press, 2001). David King and William Webster have collaborated to produce Holy Scripture:The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith (3 vols., 2001), a careful look at biblical and historical evidence for the sufficiency of Scripture. And an excellent new British initiative has just resulted in the publication of Paul Helm & Carl Trueman, eds.,The Trustworthiness of God:Perspectives on the Nature of Scripture (IVP, 2002).
Three very different books remain to be mentioned. One book which is not written by an evangelical Christian, but which has proved to be good medicine when first encountering various literary criticisms is Frederick C. Crews, The Pooh Perplex (E. P. Dutton, 1965). In this book, Crews carefully, sarcastically and humorously “proves” that the Winnie the Pooh stories actually have multiple authors.There could hardly be a more enjoyable send-up and devastating critique of many kinds of literary criticism, not to mention an expose of the arbitrariness of any such studies’ “assured results.”
One particularly important area of controversy about inerrancy has been the renewed controversies surrounding the life of Jesus. Legions of books have been published about this. Perhaps the best one volume to get to introduce the whole topic is a volume composed, in part, of a debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. It is called Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?, edited by Paul Copan (Baker, 1998).It is engaging, sharp, makes reference to other contemporary literature, and is presented with additional sections which help the reader with particular concerns.
I’ve saved the best for last. If I could just recommend one book on the inerrancy of the Bible it would undoubtedly be this one—John Wenham, Christ and the Bible (Tyndale Press, 1972 [UK]; IVP, 1973 [US]). Wenham’s book has been through three editions and makes the simple point that our trust in Scripture is to be a part of our following Christ, because that is the way that Christ treated Scripture—as true, and therefore authoritative. (Robert Lightner, a professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Seminary published a similar book a few years later, A Biblical Case for Total Inerrancy: How Jesus Viewed the Old Testament [Kregel, 1978].) Wenham had first put these ideas in print with a little Tyndale pamphlet in 1953 called Our Lord’s View of the Old Testament. In Christ and the Bible, Wenham, an Anglican evangelical who taught Greek for many years at Oxford, has done us all a great service in providing us with a book which understands that we do not come by our adherence to Scripture fundamentally from the inductive resolutions of discrepancies, but from the teaching of the Lord Jesus.Only because of the Living Word may we finally know to trust the Written Word. May God use these resources of those who’ve gone before us to equip and encourage us in so trusting.
[BOXED BRIEF SUGGESTION]
To get up to speed on this issue, and to help you with your ministry, consider the following recommendations.
MUST READ: à Wenham
SHOULD READ: Warfield, Packer’s “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, Lindsell, any one of the edited volumes of your choosing!