Historical Theology Week 2

June 15, 2016 ()

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Bible Institute – June 15, 2016

Lesson #2 – The Doctrine of Scripture



  1. Church fathers (100-150).
  2. a) The OT books were considered to be authoritative.
  3. b) Words of Christ and the apostles were authoritative.
  4. c) The earliest Fathers considered tradition to be authoritative.

Tradition in the NT:  bad and good.       Tradition was understood to be the oral articulation of the gospel just as the sacred books were the literary expression of it.   Thus, they viewed tradition and Scripture, though different forms of communication, as the same.  They agreed.   Both the sacred writings and the word-of-mouth communication of the gospel were the “Word of God.”

  1. d) The early Fathers placed authority in the leadership of the church.

Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-c.107) -       His writings expressed in many ways a shift from a plurality of leadership to the emergence of a single leader in each of the churches, the pastor/bishop.    The bishop was understood to stand in a line of succession with the apostles.     The bishop was a faithful witness to the gospel.

Clement of Rome (d.101?) – He advocated the concept of an apostolic succession in the churches.  So apostolic succession was not so much understood as an unbroken sequence of leaders in the churches but rather as the continuation of the gospel message in the churches preserved by faithful leaders.

  1. The Apologists (150-300).
  2. a) Religious opposition: Gnosticism –

Ireneaus - Value of Tradition = handed down by the apostles to the churches.

Tertullian -  The apostolic churches have faithfully preserved apostolic teachings.

  1. b) From within opposition:

1) Marcionism –

2) Montanism –

  1. c) From the state:
  2. d) Early canons of Scripture.

1) The Muratorian Canon –

2) Irenaeus (c.130-c.200)

3) Origin (c.185-c.254) -

  1. e) Key criteria for the canon: APOSTOLICITY (written by an apostle or one close to an apostle);  ANTIQUITY (recognized as Scripture through the ages);   SPIRITUAL ELEVATION (did it edify the faith and lives of believers).    Tradition continued to be important in preserving the faith.
  2. f) The Apologists believed that the Scriptures were the Word of God in written form.

Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) – believed that the Scriptures were both verbally inspired by God (extending to the exact words) and plenary (encompassing the totality of them.  When the prophets spoke in the OT, the Divine Word moved them. (Apology 36)

Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215) – described inspiration as God “using righteous man as an instrument like a harp or lyre, that He might reveal to us the knowledge of things divine and heavenly.  (Exhortations to the Heathen, 8).

Athenagoras (2d c.) – “The prophets were lifted in ecstasy above the natural operations of their minds by the impulse of the Divine Spirit, the Spirit making use of them as a flute player breathes into a flute” (Apology 9).

  1. g) The concept of the bishop’s office continued to develop as a hedge against gospel enemies.

Irenaeus wrote, “True knowledge is that which consists in the doctrine of the apostles . . . according to the succession of the bishops . . . without any forging of Scriptures . . . a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures” (Against Heresy 4:33).

The early churches began to accept the idea of a single leader, due to giftedness and learnedness, to refute heresy and console the afflicted.

  1. The Theologians (300-600).
  2. a) The acceptance of Christianity by Emperor Constantine in the 4th
  3. b) Eastern Church – Council of Laodicea (363) -
  4. c) Athanasius (c.296-373) –
  5. d) Augustine of Hippo (354-430).
  6. e) Vincent of Lerins – principles of interpretation.


The Roman Catholic Church grew in authority and the Latin Vulgate with the Apocrypha was the accepted version of the Bible for a millennium.  Some NT books were doubted (Hebrews, 2 Peter, James).       The Renaissance brought a renewed interest in the Hebrew and Greek languages of the Bible which revealed error after error in the Latin Vulgate.


  1. The Council of Trent (1545-63).  They adopted the Old Latin Vulgate as being canonical.  The 7 of the 15 Apocryphal books were included in the OT.    However, their view of “tradition” changed to include church customs or practices.

The Council of Trent also said that God had given to the official church teachers the gifts to exclusively interpret the Holy Scriptures.

  1. The Protestant Churches.

The Reformers adopted the Hebrew OT without the apocrypha rather than the Septuagint with the apocrypha.

Martin Luther’s 95 thesis -

Calvin said one’s recognition and acceptance of the inspiration of the Bible was due to the work of the Holy Spirit.


  1. The Renaissance. The so-called birth of learning, rejected both the authority of tradition and the bible. It taught that we should not trust an outside authority but to turn inward to find authority.
  2. The Enlightenment. This was an intellectual movement in Europe that put the focus on the inner self. Scripture was no longer king, but gave way to a new royalty in their confidence in reason, free will and the ability of man to build a glorious future.
  3. Higher Criticism. Treated the Bible like any other human book and accused it of having many errors.

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) – authority in the inner self

Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889) – Bible is myth and full of errors.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) -  Jesus is a window into God; Bible a dung heap.

Karl Barth (1886-1968) – Bible is only a witness to Christ, not the Word of God.

  1. Faithful defenders of the Scriptures as inspired and inerrant: B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, O. T. Allis, John Murray, etc.