The Pietist Critique Of Inerrancy? J. A. Bengel’s Gnomon As A Test Case -- By: Alan J. Thompson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 47:1 (Mar 2004)
Article: The Pietist Critique Of Inerrancy? J. A. Bengel’s Gnomon As A Test Case
Author: Alan J. Thompson


The Pietist Critique Of Inerrancy?
J. A. Bengel’s Gnomon As A Test Case

Alan J. Thompson*

On the rst page of his controversial and widely inuential 1678 work, Histoire critique du Vieux Testament, the French Roman Catholic priest Richard Simon states without apology that the universally held view of Scripture for both Jews and Christians was that Scripture is infallible,1 has divine authority, comes directly from God, and is the pure word of God. Simon also highlights the fact that the original manuscripts have been lost and that changes have been introduced to copies over time. He then begins his work (which went on to argue for a “public scribes hypothesis” for the authorship of the Pentateuch) by quoting Augustine in support of the need to examine the copies critically.2 Critics of inerrancy, however, often argue that the doctrine of the inerrancy of the “original autographs” of Scripture

(i.e. the truthfulness of Scripture in all that it afrms) is only a relatively recent development in the history of the church and point to an article by A. A. Hodge and B. B. Wareld on “Inspiration” in 1881 as the classic formulation of the doctrine.3 Although A. A. Hodge claimed that his defense of the inspiration and inerrancy of the original autographs was in line with what had universally been held by the church, many assert that the “original autograph” proposal was a novel development to combat the rise of higher criticism.4 The view that Princeton theologians developed the doctrine of inerrant original autographs does not necessarily prove that this doctrine is

* Alan Thompson is a Ph.D. candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2065 Half Day Road, Deereld, IL 60015.

wrong. Nevertheless, careful responses have demonstrated the falsity of this claim point by point.5

The Pietists are one particular group who continue to be put forward as evidence for the novelty of the doctrine of inerrancy. Although they were not mentioned in the studies of Sandeen and Rogers and McKim, and hence did not need detailed examination in the responses of Woodbridge and others, it is frequently claimed that the Pietists (and their doctrine of Scripture) have been neglected and even suppressed by those who maintain that Scripture is inerrant. The Pietists are said to have held to a more “dynamic” and less “mechanical” view of Scripture—even deliberat...

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