Early Church Comments On Inspiration


B.B. Warfield



"Nor do we need to do more than remind ourselves that this attitude of entire trust in every word of the Scriptures has been characteristic of the people of God from the very foundation of the church. Christendom has always reposed upon the belief that the utterances of this book are properly oracles of God. The whole body of Christian literature bears witness to this fact. We may trace its stream to its source, and everywhere it is vocal with a living faith in the divine trustworthiness of the Scriptures of God in every one of their affirmations. This is the murmur of the little rills of Christian speech which find their tenuous way through the parched heathen land of the early second century. And this is the mighty voice of the great river of Christian thought which sweeps through the ages, freighted with blessings for men. Dr. Sanday, in his recent Bampton Lectures on "Inspiration"-in which, unfortunately, he does not teach this church doctrine-is driven to admit that not only may "testimonies to the general doctrine of inspiration" from the earliest Fathers, "be multiplied to almost any extent; but [that] there are some which go further and point to an inspiration which might described as 'verbal'"; "nor does this idea," he adds, "come in tentatively and by degrees, but almost from the very first."3* He might have spared the adverb "almost". The earliest writers know no other doctrine. If Origen asserts that the Holy Spirit was co worker with the Evangelists in the composition of the Gospel, and that, therefore, lapse of memory, error or falsehood was impossible to them,4* and if Irenaeus, the pupil of Polycarp, claims for Christians a clear knowledge that "the Scriptures are perfect, seeing that they are spoken by God's Word and his Spirit.";5* no less does Polycarp, the pupil of John, consider the Scriptures the very voice of the Most High, and pronounce him the first born of Satan, "whosoever perverts these oracles of the Lord."6* Nor do the later Fathers know a different doctrine. Augustine, for example, affirms that he defers to the canonical Scriptures alone among books with such reverence and honor that he most "firmly believes that no one of their authors has erred in anything, in writing."7* To precisely the same effect did the Reformers believe and teach. Luther adopts these words of Augustine's as his own, and declares that the whole of the Scriptures are to be ascribed to the Holy Ghost, and therefore cannot err.8* Calvin demands that whatever is propounded in Scripture, "without exception," shall be humbly received by us, that the Scriptures as a whole shall be received by us with the same reverence which we give to God, "because they have emanated from him alone, and are mixed with nothing human."9* The saintly Rutherford, who speaks of the Scriptures as a more sure word than a direct oracle from heaven,10* and Baxter, who affirms that "all that the holy writers have recorded is true (and no falsehood in the Scriptures but what is from the errors of scribes and translators),"11* hand down this supreme trust in the Scripture word to our own day-to our own Charles Hodge and Henry B. Smith, the one of whom asserts that the Bible "gives us truth without error,"12* and the other, that "all the books of the Scripture are equally inspired;all alike are infallible in what they teach;their assertions must be free from error."13* Such testimonies are simply the formulation by the theologians of each age of the constant faith of Christians throughout all ages.

3. Sanday, "Inspiration," p. 34.
4. On Matt. xvi. 12 and Jno. vi. 18.
5. Adv. Haer, ii. 23.
6. Ep. ad Phil., cap. vii.
7. Ep. ad Hier. lxxxii. 3.
8. "Works" (St. Louis ed.), xix. 305; (Erlangen ed.), xxxvii. 11 and xxxviii. 33.
9. "Institutes," i. 18; "Commentary on Romans," xv. 4, and on 2 Tim. iii. 16.
10. "Free Disputation against Pretended Libery of Conscience," p. 373.
11. "Works," xv. 65.
12. Henry B. Smith, "Sermon on Inspiration" (Cincinnati ed.), p. 19.
13. Charles Hodge, "Syst. Theol.," i. 163.

The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. B.B. Warfield. The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. Philadelphia, PA. 1948. Page 107-109.