The Necessity of Scripture -- By: William D. Barrick
TMSJ 15:2 (Fall 2004) p. 151
The Necessity of Scripture
Professor of Old Testament
Scripture is necessary because God willed to provide it and because mankind’s condition required it. The image of God in man requires communication between God and human beings. God’s incomprehensibility is another reason for the necessity of Scripture. Natural revelation’s insufficiency to teach the nature of God makes Scripture indispensable. The complexity of divine truth would have eventually required a written revelation even for Adam had he remained in his unfallen state. The fall of man made comprehension of divine truth in an oral form impossible, because corrupt mankind is always prone to distort what is oral. God’s special revelation had to be in written form. The work of God also makes written Scripture a necessity, since Scripture is the means that God has chosen to do His work in human lives. Without Scripture much would be left undone. There can be no question that Scripture is necessary.
Lord Byron (1788–1824), the great British Romantic poet, presented his publisher John Murray with a handsomely bound Bible containing a flattering inscription. Understandably, Murray was favorably impressed and placed it on a table where his guests would see it. Eventually a visitor admired the book enough to pick it up and thumb through it. While doing so, he noted an alteration of the text at John 18:40. In the sentence “Now Barabbas was a robber,” Lord Byron had deleted “robber” and substituted the word “publisher.” Byron’s purpose in giving the Bible had finally come to light. Obviously, Murray no longer displayed Byron’s gift on his table.1 Why did Byron give Murray that Bible? It would appear that he desired to make a statement, but did not want to do so too openly or directly.
God’s gift of Scripture to mankind also makes a statement, but it is made openly and directly. Purpose (making a statement) and necessity, however, are two different concepts. Was it necessary that Byron give the Bible to Murray? Was it
TMSJ 15:2 (Fall 2004) p. 152
necessary that he reveal his low opinion of his publisher in this fashion? Byron did not act under any necessity. He could have chosen a variety of means at his disposal to fulfill his purpose in letting Murray and others know how he felt.
This study asks the same questions about Scripture: Why did God provide Scripture? Was it a matter of necessity? In order to pursue this latter question theologically one must establish the meaning of necessity. What does the theologian mean by the necessit...
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