Letter And Spirit -- By: W. H. Griffith Thomas

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 073:289 (Jan 1916)
Article: Letter And Spirit
Author: W. H. Griffith Thomas

Letter And Spirit

W. H. Griffith Thomas

In the Bibliotheca Sacra for October, 1915, the Rev. E. S. Buchanan writes as follows: “Textual discoveries have set us free from slavery to the letter that killeth, and made us ready (let us hope) for a stricter obedience in the future to the life-giving Spirit of love and liberty” (p. 544).

This is one of several recent suggestions that the letter of Scripture can be put in antithesis to the spirit; and the text is thus used as though, somehow or other, the important point was not the letter but the spirit of Scripture. On this, two remarks may be made: (1) the text in 2 Cor. 3:6 has no reference at all to the Scripture but to the law. The Apostle is not concerned with the letter of inspiration as opposed to the spirit; and to use it in this sense is to convey an entirely false idea of the passage. As in the corresponding passage in Romans 2, the Apostle is contrasting the letter of the law in the old covenant with the inward spirit which is the characteristic of the new covenant, showing that Christianity is not a matter of outward observance to the letter of the law, but an inward devotion to the spirit. (2) In addition to this, the question may fairly be asked, How is it possible to contrast the letter of Scripture with the spirit, whether we think of spirit in relation to man, or the Holy Spirit as the source? How are we to know the spirit except through the letter? Flow are we to get at the inspiration of the thoughts except by means of the words? If there is any authority in the thoughts it must surely be expressed in the words, and the objections often raised to the inspiration of words are just as valid against the inspiration of thoughts. In 1 Cor. 14:37 the Apostle writes: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge, that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”

Here is the human element, “the things that I write,” — the words. Here is the divine, “the commandments of the Lord,” — the authority behind. For these two reasons, I suggest that it is time we ceased to use 2 Cor. 3:6 in the way now mentioned.

Derivation Of Hamartia

In Dr. Estes’ article on “The Religious Ideas Peculiar to Christianity “in the last number of the Bibliotheca Sacra (Oct. 1915), he evidently objects (p. 658) to what he calls “the popular lexicology which finds the idea of sin in the ultimate derivation of the Greek word from a root meaning ‘m...

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