“Scopus Scripturae:” John Owen, Nehemiah Coxe, Our Lord Jesus Christ, And A Few Early Disciples On Christ As The Scope Of Scripture -- By: Richard C. Barcellos

Journal: Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
Volume: JIRBS 02:0 (NA 2015)
Article: “Scopus Scripturae:” John Owen, Nehemiah Coxe, Our Lord Jesus Christ, And A Few Early Disciples On Christ As The Scope Of Scripture
Author: Richard C. Barcellos


“Scopus Scripturae:”
John Owen, Nehemiah Coxe, Our Lord Jesus Christ, And A Few Early Disciples On Christ As The Scope Of Scripture

Richard C. Barcellos*

* Richard C. Barcellos, Ph.D., is pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Palmdale, CA (www.grbcav.org). He is author of The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More than a Memory and Better than the Beginning: Creation in Biblical Perspective. English Bible references are from the New American Standard Bible Updated Edition.

Terms such as Christ-centered and Christocentric are used often in our day. But what do they mean? The older way of describing the concept these terms point to, the target or end to which all of the Bible tends, is encapsulated by the Latin phrase scopus Scripturae (i.e., the scope of the Scriptures). This concept gained confessional status in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Savoy Declaration, and the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith in 1.5, which, speaking of Holy Scripture, says, “. . . the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God)…” Reformation and post-Reformation Reformed theologians understood scope in two senses. It had a narrow sense—i.e., the scope of a given text or passage, its basic thrust. But it also had a wider sense—i.e., the target or bull’s eye to which all of Scripture tends.1 It is with this second sense that we will give our attention. The goal of this study is to identify the Reformed concept of Christ as scopus Scripturae and to attempt to show that it is firmly grounded in Holy Scripture itself.

We will give some space to the historical-theological background to the issue and then use John Owen and Nehemiah Coxe as examples of two within the Reformed orthodox theological tradition who articulated Christ as the scope of Scripture. Once the

historical section is completed, a brief attempt will be made to illustrate the same concept assumed in and being applied by the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and some of his early disciples. The article will conclude with a challenge to utilize this hermeneutical principle in our interpretations of Holy Scripture.

Some Historical-Theological Background On Scopus Scripturae

The post-Reformation Reformed orthodox theologians embraced a whole-Bible hermeneutic. This manifested itself in their understanding of the scope of Scripture.2 Though scopus could refer to the immediate pericope, it also had a wider, redemptive-historical focus. Scopus, in this latter sense, referred to the center or target of the entirety of canonical revel...

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