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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Scripture

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1. Terms.-The general designation for ‘Scripture’ is γραφή or plur. γραφαί, the former occurring some 30 times in the NT (Gospels 14, Acts 3, Paul 9, Catholic Epistles 5), the latter about 20 times (Gospels 10, Acts 4, Paul 5, Catholic Epistles 2). The terms are almost invariably preceded by the definite article, the only exceptions being in John 19:37, 2 Timothy 3:16, where the article before γραφή is replaced by ἑτέρα and πᾶσα respectively, 1 Peter 2:6, 2 Peter 1:20, where γραφή has become a real proper name, and Romans 1:2; Romans 16:26, where the Scriptures are more explicitly characterized as γραφαί ἅγιαι and γραφαί προφητικαί, ‘holy Scriptures’ and ‘prophetic Scriptures.’ In one text, 2 Timothy 3:15, another designation is used, viz. ἱερὰ γράμματα, ‘sacred writings’ (a direct translation of the Hebrew phrase בִּתָבֵי חַקֹּדָשׁ), which we find also in Philo and Josephus.

2. Connotation of terms.-Both γραφή and γράμμα are derived from the verb γράφω, ‘draw,’ ‘inscribe,’ or ‘write,’ and thus suggest writing in the most general sense. Classical Greek shows the transition in each case from the rudimentary conception of written characters, or the art of alphabetic writing, to the higher thought of real literature. In the NT γράμμα alone shows any such variety of meaning. Here the word is applied, not merely to the ‘letter’ of the Law as contrasted with the living, life-giving spirit (Romans 2:27 ff., 2 Corinthians 3:6 f.), but in its plural form γράμματα to the elements of penmanship (Galatians 6:11), literature as a subject of study (John 7:15, Acts 26:24), and documents of various kinds, such as the debtors’ bills reduced by the unjust steward (Luke 16:6 f.), letters of commendation or the reverse (Acts 28:21), the writings of Moses (John 5:47), as well as the Sacred Scriptures (in the phrase cited from 2 Timothy 3:15). The parallel term γραφή is used only in the last sense. The question has been widely canvassed whether the singular γραφή applies to the Scriptures as a unified whole, or to some single section or ‘passage’ of Scripture. In his famous note on Galatians 3:22 Lightfoot lays down the principle that ‘the singular γραφή in the NT always means a particular passage of Scripture,’ though in a subsequent comment on Romans 4:3, while insisting that St. Paul’s practice ‘is absolute and uniform,’ he admits a doubt as to St. John’s usage. On the other hand, Warfield maintains that the prevailing classical application of γραφή to entire documents, carrying with it ‘a general implication of completeness,’ extends also to the NT,-that ‘in its more common reference’ the term ‘designates the OT, to which it is applied in its completeness as a unitary whole’ (Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii. 586). In the present writer’s judgment the former contention vindicates itself, even in the Fourth Gospel and in the crucial text Galatians 3:22 (the Apostle having in mind the passages of Scripture adduced either in Galatians 2:16, Galatians 3:10 or in the longer argument of Romans 3:9 ff.). The only clear instances of γραφή applied to the Scriptures as a whole appear to be found in 1 Peter 2:6 and 2 Peter 1:20, where the word is already a proper name, the full development of the personifying tendency observable in Galatians 3:8. As regards the significance of the plural γραφαί there is general agreement. Where the term is qualified by the adjectives ἅγιαι and προφητικαί (cf. above), the reference is to the character, not the scope, of the Scriptures. In 2 Peter 3:16 αἱ λοιπαὶ γραφαί are most probably to be understood of apostolic writings. But the technical phrase αἱ γραφαί undoubtedly denotes the body of Scriptural writings as an organic unity, with a spirit and character of its own.

3. Authority of Scripture.-The peculiar quality of the Scriptures is indicated by the three defining adjectives, ἅγιαι, ἰεραί, and προφητικαί, the notions of ‘holiness’ and ‘sacredness’ bringing the Books into direct relationship with God, and that of ‘prophecy’ leading forward to the revelation of the mystery of God in Christ. The high Jewish theory of the inspiration of Scripture is fully accepted in the NT. The term θεόπνευστος, ‘God-inspired’ (cf. Heb. בִּרוּחַ הַקֹּדָשׁ), applied to Scripture in all its parts (πᾶσα γραφή), is found indeed only in 2 Timothy 3:16; but the theory underlies the whole attitude of the NT writers to the older revelation. ‘No prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Thus the words of Moses, David, Isaiah, and the other prophets may be attributed directly to God (Romans 9:25, Hebrews 1:5 ff; Hebrews 5:5 f.), or the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:16, Hebrews 3:7 ff; Hebrews 10:15 ff.), or God speaking through the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:25 f., Hebrews 4:3 ff; Hebrews 8:8 ff.), or even the Messiah (Hebrews 2:12 f., 10:5ff.), As the ‘living oracles’ of God, then, the Scriptures are the final norm alike of faith and of conduct. The true servant of God believes ‘all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets’ (Acts 24:14), and sets an example to others not, even in their estimate of the apostles, to go ‘beyond the things which are written’ (1 Corinthians 4:6). The appeal to ‘what is written’ (καθὼς γέγραπται or γεγραμμένον ἐστίν, the Christian rendering of the Rabbinic formula שָׁבָּאֱמַר or דִּבְתִיכ) is decisive, not merely in clinching a theological argument (esp. in Romans and Galatians), but in interpreting the mission and person of Christ, and the significance of His death, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 2:25 ff., 1 Corinthians 15:4, Hebrews 2:6 ff.), with the subsequent outpouring of the Spirit, the persecution of the Church, the rejection of the Jews and mission to the Gentiles, the resurrection of the body, and the final salvation (Acts 1:16 ff., Romans 2:24; Romans 8:36; Romans 9:25 ff., 1 Corinthians 1:18 f., 1 Corinthians 15:45 ff., etc.), and equally as the authoritative guide to Christian conduct (cf. Acts 23:5, Romans 12:19, 1 Corinthians 9:9, 2 Corinthians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 6:17 f., 2 Corinthians 8:15, Ephesians 6:2 f., 1 Peter 1:16; 1 Peter 3:10 ff.); for ‘whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4), while the very quality of their ‘inspiration’ is tested by their helpfulness for teaching, for reproof, ‘for correction, for discipline which is in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16). It must be admitted, however, that the new spirit of Christianity can move freely within the limits of the older Scriptures only by a frequent straining, and even ‘wresting,’ of their natural sense (see article Old Testament).

4. Extent of Scripture.-The canon of the NT writers was that inherited from the Jewish Church, and thus corresponded to our OT. There is frequent reference to the canonical groups of the ‘Law’ and the ‘Prophets.’ Of the Hagiographa, the Books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job (in 1 Corinthians 3:19) are explicitly cited as Scripture, while a phrase front Ecclesiastes 7:20 is introduced in the remarkable conflate of OT texts in Romans 3:10 ff., with the formula καθὼς γέγραπται. Though the remaining books are passed over in silence, there is no real reason to doubt that the writers knew and recognized the full Jewish canon. In the NT, too, there is no such sense of the inferiority of the Hagiographa as haunted the Jewish Rabbis. The whole book is of God, and bears witness to Him and His salvation. In addition to OT texts there are numerous allusions to apocryphal literature, such as the Wisdom of Ben Sira, the Wisdom of Solomon, 1 and 2 Maccabees, the Book of Enoch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Assumption of Moses (see article Quotations). It is remarkable, however, that the usual formula of Scriptural quotation is nowhere attached to apocryphal texts, the only approach to such canonical recognition being found in the ‘prophesying’ of Enoch in Judges 1:14. Though the NT writers follow the Septuagint , they apparently regard the Palestinian canon as alone authoritative in the full sense of the term. Naturally their own writings have not yet attained to the dignity of Scripture; but a true feeling for the spiritual value of apostolic letters is already evident in 2 Peter 3:15 f., and the application to these writings of the technical term γραφαί shows how easy and inevitable was the extension of the Canon to cover both the OT and the NT.

Literature.-On the usage and significance of the terms, cf. the NT Dictionaries and Commentaries, esp. J. B. Lightfoot, Galatians, 1890, p. 147 f.; F. J. A. Hort, The First Epistle of St. Peter, I. 1-II. 17, 1898, p. 114 ff.; B. F. Westcott, Hebrews, 1889, p. 474 ff.; also D. M. Turpie, The New Testament View of the Old, 1872; G. A. Deissmann, Bible Studies, Eng. translation , 1901, pp. 112 ff., 249 f.; B. B. Warfield, article ‘Scripture,’ in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels ii. 584 ff., with literature. On the formation of the Canon see F. Buhl, Kanon und Text des AT [Note: T Altes Testament.] , 1891 (Eng. translation , 1892); G. Wildebcer, Het outstaan van den Kanon des Ouden Verbonds4, 1908 (Germ. translation , 1891, Eng. translation , 1895); H. E. Ryle, The Canon of the OT, 1892; K. Budde, article ‘Canon (OT),’ in Encyclopaedia Biblica ; F. H. Woods, article ‘OT Canon,’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) . On Jewish theories of Inspiration, cf. F. Weber, Jüd. Theologie, 1897, p. 80 ff., and E. Schrüer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).] 4 ii. [1907] 363 ff. (HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] II. i. [1885] 306 ff.).

A. R. Gordon.


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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Scripture'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/s/scripture.html. 1906-1918.

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Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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