Is Paul A Competent Witness? -- By: Edward F. Williams

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 056:224 (Oct 1899)
Article: Is Paul A Competent Witness?
Author: Edward F. Williams


Is Paul A Competent Witness?

Rev. Edward F. Williams

One of the most important questions we can ask relates to the confidence we are justified in placing in the testimony which Paul gives concerning the Person and the Redemptive Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Few deny that Paul himself believes in the deity of Jesus, that he preaches this belief of his to others, or that he affirms as a fact not to be set aside that the death of Christ is the ground upon which God forgives sin. Is this testimony true? Can we accept it without modification, and with it testimony in reference to related doctrines or fundamental truths of the gospel furnished by this leader in the early church?

The importance of this inquiry appears when we remember that the position is sometimes taken, that in order to learn accurately the teaching of the apostles as to primitive Christianity, we must confine ourselves to the first three Gospels, or the Synoptics, and receive as of secondary value the testimony which comes to us through the Fourth Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles. The Fourth Gospel, it is said, is of late or uncertain date, is a semi-philosophical or mystical treatise in which the reports of the words and deeds of Jesus are ideal rather than historically exact. The book of the Acts, some affirm, does not give an account of events which actually occurred, but was written to show how the opposing schools of Peter and Paul were harmonized, while the Epistles of Paul and the remaining books of the New Testament are to be used as

aids in filling out the mental picture we fashion from information obtained from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Logically, therefore, no doctrine can be emphasized as essential unless it be clearly taught, or at least implied, in the first three Gospels. Going “back to Christ” with this presupposition as to the character of the New Testament, we can discredit every statement in it which is not first made in the Synoptics, or treat it as of secondary importance, and reject as of doubtful value those special doctrines which seem to have had a firmer hold upon the minds of Peter and Paul and the author of the Fourth Gospel than upon the minds of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We can go further, and throw doubt upon the historic accuracy of more than three-quarters of the New Testament, and with even mere confidence call in question the credibility of the Old Testament. With the historical books of the Old Testament out of the way, and the doctrine of Evolution, as it is sometimes held, accepted as our guide through the earlier eras, it is not a difficult task to reduce the scriptural system of sacrifices to a relic of superstition, the prophecies to conjectures of gifted and obser...

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