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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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SCRIPTURE . 1 . The word ‘Scripture’ (Lat. scriptura , ‘a writing,’ ‘something written’) is used for the Bible as a whole, more often in the plural form ‘Scriptures,’ and also more properly for a passage of the Bible. It appears as tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of the Greek graphç , which is used in the singular for a portion of the OT ( e.g. Mark 12:10 ), and also for the whole OT ( Galatians 3:22 ), and more frequently in the plural ( haigraphai ). The specific idea of Scripture contains an element of sanctity and authority. Thus it becomes usual to refer to Holy Scripture, or the Holy Scriptures ( en graphais hagiais , Romans 1:2 ).

2 . This specific conception of Scripture as distinguished from ordinary writing is due to the reception of it as a record of the word of God, and is therefore associated with inspiration. The earliest reference to any such record is in the narrative of the finding of the Book of the Law by Hilkiah the scribe in the time of Josiah ( 2 Kings 22:3 ff.). Since this book is now known to have been Deuteronomy or part of it, we must reckon that this was the first book treated as Scripture. Still greater sanctity was given to the enlarged and more developed Law in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, and from that time the whole Pentateuch, regarded as the Law given by God to Moses, is treated as especially sacred and authoritative. The special function of the scribes in guarding and teaching the Law rested on this Scriptural character attached to it, and in turn rendered it the more venerable as Scripture. Later the reception of the Hagiographa and the Prophets into the Canon led to those collections being regarded also as Scripture, though never with quite the authority attached to the Law.

The Rabbis cherished great veneration for Scripture, and ascribed to it a mechanical inspiration which extended to every word and letter. Philo also accepted plenary inspiration, finding his freedom from the bondage of the letter in allegorical interpretations.

Unlike the Jerusalem Rabbis, in this respect followed by most of the NT writers, who quote the various OT authors by name, Philo quotes Scripture as the immediate word of God, and in so doing is followed by the author of Hebrews. Thus, while St. Mark says, ‘as it is written in Isaiah, the prophet’ (Mark 1:2 ), and St. Paul ‘David saith’ ( Romans 11:9 ), in Hebrews we read, ‘He ( i.e. God) saith’ ( Hebrews 1:7 ), ‘the Holy Ghost saith’ ( Hebrews 3:7 ), or, more indefinitely, ‘it is said’ ( Hebrews 3:15 ), which is quite in the manner of Philo. Still, the technical expression ‘It is written’ ( gegraptai ) is very common both in the Gospels and in St. Paul’s Epistles. As a Greek perfect, it has the peculiar force of a present state resulting from a past action. Thus it always conveys the thought that Scripture, although it was written long ago, does not belong to the past, but is in existence to-day, and its inherent present authority is thus emphasized as that of a law now in force. The impersonal character of the passive verb also adds dignity to the citation thus introduced, as something weighty on its own account.

3. No NT writings during the Apostolic age are treated as Scripture a title, with its associated authority, always reserved by the Apostles for the OT. There is an apparent exception in 2 Peter 3:15-16 , where the Epistles of ‘our beloved brother Paul’ are associated with ‘the other scriptures’; but this is a strong argument in favour of assigning 2Peter to a late period in the second century. Apart from this, we first meet with the technical phrase ‘It is written’ attached to a NT passage in Barn. iv. 4; but here it is a Gospel citation of a saying of Christ: ‘As it is written. Many are called but few chosen.’ Thus the authority of Christ’s words leads to the record of them being cited as Scripture. In Polycarp ( Phil . xii. 1) we have the title ‘Scripture’ applied to the source of a NT quotation, but only in the Latin tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ( his scripturis ). In 2 Clem. ii. 4 a saying of Christ is cited as Scripture. But, apart from these rare instances, no writer previous to the second half of the second century appeals to the NT as technically Scripture. Clement of Rome, Barnahas (with the one exception referred to), Hermas, and even Justin Martyr use the title for the OT only. Theophilus of Antioch ( c [Note: circa, about.] . 180) cites passages from St. Paul as ‘the Divine word’ ( ad Autol . iii. 14). Irenæus (180), on the other hand, constantly treats NT passages as the word of God and authoritative Scripture. For an explanation of this remarkable development, see Canon of NT.

W. F. Adeney.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Scripture'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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